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On March 11 of this year Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did me 
the honour of debating the claims of Spiritualism with me 
before a vast and distinguished audience at the Queen's 
Hall, London. My opponent had insisted that I should 
open the debate ; and, when it was pointed out that the 
critic usually follows the exponent, he had indicated that 
I had ample material to criticize in the statement of the 
case for Spiritualism in his two published works. 

How conscientiously I addressed myself to that task, and 
with what result, must be left to the reader of the published 
debate. Suffice it to say that my distinguished opponent 
showed a remarkable disinclination to linger over his own 
books, and wished to " broaden the issue." Since the bulk 
of the time allotted to me in the debate was then already 
spent, it was not possible to discuss satisfactorily the new 
evidences adduced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and not 
recorded in his books. I hasten to repair the defect in this 
critical examination of every variety of Spiritualistic 

My book has a serious aim. The pen of even the dullest 
author — and I trust I do not fall into that low category of 
delinquents — must grow lively or sarcastic at times in the 
course of such a study as this. When one finds Spiritualists 
gravely believing that a corpulent lady is transferred by 
spirit hands, at the rate of sixty miles an hour, over the 
chimney-pots of London, and through several solid walls, 
one cannot be expected to refrain from smiling. When one 
contemplates a group of scientific or professional men 




plumbing the secrets of the universe through the medium- 
ship of an astute peasant or a carpenter, or a lady of less 
than doubtful virtue, one may be excused a little irony. 
When our creators of super-detectives enthusiastically 
applaud things which were fully exposed a generation ago, 
and affirm that, because they could not, in pitch darkness, 
see any fraud, there was no fraud, we cannot maintain the 
gravity of philosophers. When we find this " new revela- 
tion" heralded by a prodigious outbreak of fraud, and 
claiming as its most solid foundations to-day a mass of 
demonstrable trickery and deceit, our sense of humour is 
pardonably irritated. Nor are these a few exceptional 
weeds in an otherwise fair garden. In its living literature 
to-day, in its actual hold upon a large number of people in 
Europe and America, Spiritualism rests to a very great 
extent on fraudulent representations. 

Here is my serious purpose. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
made two points against me which pleased his anxious 
followers. One — which evoked a thunder of applause 
— was that I was insensible of the consolation which this 
new religion has brought to thousands of bereaved 
humans. I am as conscious of that as he or any other 
Spiritualist is. It has, however, nothing to do with the 
question whether Spiritualism is true or no, which we were 
debating ; or with the question to what extent Spiritualism 
is based on fraud, w^hich I now discuss. Far be it from me 
to slight the finer or more tender emotions of the human 
heart. On the contrary, it is in large part to the more 
general cultivation of this refinement and delicacy of feeling 
that I look for the uplifting of our race. But let us take 
things in order. Does any man think it is a matter of 
indifference whether this ministry of consolation is based 
on fraud and inspired by greed ? It is inconceivable. 

And, indeed, the second point made by my opponent 
shows that I do not misconceive him and his followers. 
It is that I exaggerate the quantity of fraud in the move- 


ment. If they are right — if they have purified the move- 
ment of the grosser frauds which so long disfigured it — they 
have some ground to ask the critic to address himself to the 
substantial truth rather than the occasional imposture. 
But this is a question of fact ; and to that question of fact 
the following pages are devoted. I survey the various 
classes of Spiritualistic phenomena. I tell the reader how 
materializations, levitations, raps, direct voices, apports, 
spirit-photographs, lights and music in the dark, messages 
from the dead, and so on, have actually and historically 
been engineered during the last fifty years. This is, surely, 
useful. Spiritualism is in one of its periodical phases of 
advance. Our generation knows nothing of the experience 
of these things of an earlier generation. To teach one's 
fellows the weird ingenuity, the sordid impostures, the 
grasping trickery, which have accompanied Spiritualism 
since its birth in America in 1848 can hurt only one class 
of men — impostors. 

J. M. 

Easter, 1920, 











Chapter I 


M ediums are the prie sts^o|_t he Spirit uajist^eligbn, 
They are the indispens^leIfiIiajiJijela-.Qlj2Qm 
tioiQ""^with2the_3rEir^ They have, not by ) 

aimrnting, EurTybirthright, the _m^gicaj__character V 
w nicn iits them _ ajone to p^ erform the miracles of the r 
newrevelation^ \ 

al o pe, 'can one learn the c onditions under which / 
m anifestations may be expected. Were they to form 
a'union or go on strike, the life of the new religion 
would be more completely suspended than the life of 
any other religion. They control the entire output 
of evidence. They guard the gates of the beyond. 
They are the priests of the new religion. 

Now it will not be serioi]^ly_disjputed that during 
the ja^ tSrejIgliar ters of the century these" mediums 
or pries ts have perpetrated more fraud than was ever 
attributed to_ any priesthood befor er_A few~wee1^agTr 
Spiritualists held a meeting in commemoration of the 
*' seventy-second anniversary" of the birth of their 
religion. That takes us back to 1848, the year in 
which Mrs. Fish, as I will tell later, astutely turned 
into a profitable concern the power of her younger 
sisters to rap out *' spirit " communications with the 
joints of their toes. There have been some quaint 
beginnings of religions, but the formation of that 
fraudulent little American family-syndicate in 1848 is 
surely the strangest that ever got " commemoration " 



in the annals of religion. And from that day until 
ours there is hardly a single prominent medium who 
has~ not bee n ^nvfcted of fraud. Any person^^vho 
cares to run over Mr. Podmore's history of the move- 
ment will see this. There is hardly a medium named 
in the nineteenth century who does not eventually 
disappear in an odour of sulphur. 

Podmore was one of the best-informed and most 
conscientious non- Spiritualists who ever wrote on 
Spiritualism. If one prefers the verdict of the French 
astronomer Flammarion, who believes that mediums 
do possess abnormal powers and has studied them for 
nearly sixty years, this is what he says : — 

It is the same with all mediums, male and female. 
I believe I have had nearly all of them, from various 
parts of the world, at my house during the last forty 
years. One may lay it down as a principle that all 
professional mediums cheat, but they do not cheat 

If you are inclined to think that this applies only to 
professional mediums, whose need of money drives 
them into trickery, listen to this further verdict, 
which M. Flammarion says he could support by 
*' hundreds of instances " : — 

I have seen unpaid mediums, men and women of 
the world, cheat without the least scruple, out of sheer 
vanity, or from a still less creditable motive — the love 
of deceiving. Spiritualist seances have led to very 
useful and pleasant acquaintanceships, and to more 
than one marriage. You must distrust both classes 
[paid and unpaid].- 

Listen to the verdict of another man who believes in 
the powers of mediums, and who has studied them 

1 Lea forces naturelles inconnueft (1907), p. 18. 

2 Same work, p. '213. 


enthusiastically for thirty years, a medical man with 

means and leisure— Baron von Schrenck-Notzing^ : — 

It is indisputable that nearly every professional 

medium (and many private mediums) does part of his 

performances by fraud Conscious and unconscious 

fraud plays an immense part in this field...... The 

entire method of the Spiritualist education of mediums, 
with its ballast of unnecessary ideas, leads directly to 
the facilitation of fraud. 
If this is not enough, take another gentleman, 
Mr. Hereward Carrington, who has studied mediums 
for two decades in various parts of the world, and 
who also believes that they have genuine abnormal 
powers : — 

Ninety-eight per cent, of the [physical] phenomena 
are fraudulent.- 
These are not men who have dismissed the pheno- 
mena as " all rot." They believe in the reality of 
materializations or levitations. They are not men 
who have been recently converted, in an emotional 
mood. They have spent whole decades in the patient 
study of mediums. I could quote a dozen more 
witnesses of that type ; but the reader will be able to 
judge for himself presently. 

^Some Spiritualists try to tone down this very grave 
blot on their religion by distinguishing between the 
professional medium and the unpaid. The men I 
have quoted warn us against this distinction. It is 
quite absurd to think that money is the only incentive 
to cheat. The history of the movement swarms with 
exposures of unpaid as well as paid mediums. An 
unpaid medium who can display '' wonderful powers " 
becomes at once a centre of most flattering interest ; 

1 Materialisations-phanoniene (1914), pp. 22, 28, and 29. 

2 Personal Experiences in Spiritualism (1913), p. ix. 


and we shall see dozens of cases of this vanity leading 
men and women of every social position into fraud 
and misrepresentation, even in quite recent times. 
All that one can say is that there is far less fraud 
among unpaid mediums. But there are far less 
striking phenomena among unpaid mediums, as a 
rule, and so this helps us very little. The ''evidence" 
afforded by mediums like Mr. Vale Owen, and the 
myriads of quite recent automatic writers and artists, 
is absolutely worthless. What they do is too obviously 

We must remember, also, that the distinction 
between '' paid " and " unpaid " is not quite so plain 
as some think. Daniel Dunglas Home is always 
described by Spiritualists as an unpaid medium, but 
I will show presently that he lived in great comfort 
all his life on the strength of his Spiritualist powers. 
Florence Cook, Sir William Crookes's famous medium, 
is described as " unpaid," because she did not (at that 
time) charge sitters ; but she had a large annual 
allowance from a wealthy Spiritualist precisely in 
order that she should not charge at the door. To 
take a living medium, and one very strongly recom- 
mended to us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle under the 
name of " Eva C." (though it has been openly 
acknowledged by her patrons on the continent for six 
years that her name is Marthe Beraud) : she has lived 
a luxurious life with people far above her own station 
in life for fifteen years, in virtue of her supposed 
abnormal powers. 

The distinction is, in any case, useless. When 
Spiritualists try to conciliate us to their wonderful 
stories by telling us that the medium was *' unpaid," 
they do not know the history of their own movement. 


The most extraordinary frauds have been perpetrated, 
even in recent years, by unpaid mediuros, or ladies 
of good social position. Flammarion, Maxwell, 
Ochorowicz, Carrington, and all other experienced 
investigators give hundreds of cases. Not many 
years ago Professor Reichel, tired of examining and 
exposing professional mediums, heard that the 
daughter of a high official in Costa Kica was pro- 
ducing wonderful materializations. He actually went 
to Costa Rica to study her, and he found that she was 
tricking (dressing a servant girl as a ghost) in the 
crudest fashion, as I will tell later. The daughter of 
an Italian chemist, Linda Gazerra cheated scientific 
and professional men for three years (1908-11), but 
was at last found to conceal her "ghosts" and 
*' apports " in her false hair and her underclothing. 
There is no such thing as a guarantee against fraud 
in the character of the medium. Every case has to 
be examined with unsparing rigour. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meets the difficulty by 
cheerfully distinguishing between white, black, and 
grey mediums : the entirely honest, the entirely 
fraudulent, and those who have genuine powers, but 
cheat at times when their powers flag and the sitters 
are impatient for " manifestations." It is a familiar 
distinction. To some extent it is a sound distinction. 
We all admit black mediums. The chronicle of 
Spiritualism, short as it is, contains as sorry a 
collection of rogues, male and female, as any human 
movement could show in seventy years. Politics is 
spotless by comparison. Even business can hold up its 
head. For a " religion " the situation is remarkable. 

Next, we all admit white mediums. We all know 
those myriads of innocent folk, tender maidens and 


nervous spinsters, neuropathic clergymen and even 
quite sober-looking professional men, who bring us 
reams and rivers of inspiration through the planchette 
and the ouija board and the crystal and automatic 
writing. Bless them, they are as guileless, generally, 
as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. I have seen 
them — seen men and women of such social standing 
that one dare not breathe a suspicion — stoop to 
trickery more than once in order to get communica- 
tions of "evidential value." But there are tens of 
thousands of amateur mediums of this kind who are 
as honest as any of us. We all admit it. It is sheer 
Spiritualistic nonsense to say that we dismiss the 
whole movement as fraud. We do not question for a 
moment the honesty of these myriads of amateur 
mediums. What we say is that the evidential value 
of their work would not convert a Kaffir to Spirit- 
ualism. Dr. J. Maxwell, a distinguished French 
lawyer and doctor, who has been a close investigator 
of these things for decades and believes in mediumistic 
powers, says : — 

I share M. Janet's opinion concerning the majority 
of Spiritualist mediums. I have only found two 
interesting ones among them; the hundred others 
whom I have observed have only given me automatic 
phenomena, more or less conscious ; nearly all were 
the puppets of their imagination.^ 

No, Spiritualism does not rely at all on these innocent 
and useless productions. Invariably, your Spiritualist 
opponent turns sooner or later to the big, striking 
things, the " physical phenomena," the work of the 
"powerful" mediums. 
Now, which of these were ever "white"? Sir 

^ Metapsychical Phenomena (1905), p. 46. 


Arthur Conan Doyle, when he came to this important 
point, named four *' snow-white " mediums. He could, 
he added, name " ten or twelve living mediums " ; but 
since he did not, we still hunger for the names. The 
four spotless ones were Home, Stainton Moses, Mrs. 
Piper, and Mrs. Everett— not a great record for 
seventy years (since Home began in 1852). Mrs. 
Piper we will discuss later, but I may say at once 
that a man for whom Sir Arthur has a great respect 
as a psychic expert. Dr. Maxwell, speaks of Mrs. 
Piper's "inaccuracies and falsehoods" with great 
disdain. Who Mrs. Everett may be I do not know. 
If Sir Arthur means the Mrs. Everett of forty years 
ago, I insist on transferring her to the flock of the 
black sheep. In later chapters we will examine the 
performances of Stainton Moses and Home, and 
probably the reader will agree with me that these 
snow-white lambs were two of the arch-impostors of 
the Spiritualist movement. But a word of general 
interest may be inserted here. 

The snow-white Daniel, whom Sir W. Barrett and 
Sir A. C. Doyle and all other Spiritualists quote as 
one of the pillars of the movement, as a spotless 
worker of the most prodigious miracles, was quite the 
most successful and cynical adventurer in the history 
of Spiritualism. He was no "paid adventurer," says 
Sir A. C. Doyle in his Neiv Revelation (p. 28), but " the 
nephew of the Earl of Home." To the general public 
that statement suggests a cultivated and refined 
member of the British aristocracy, above all suspicion 
of fraud. It is the precise opposite of the truth. 
Even Daniel himseli never pretended that he was 
more than a son of a bastard son of the Earl of 
Home. He appears first as a penniless adventurer 


in America at the age of fifteen, and he lived on 
his SpirituaUstic wits -until he died. He married a 
wealthy Russian lady in virtue of his pretensions, 
and his second marriage was based on the same 
pretensions. It is true that he did not charge so 
much a sitter. He had a more profitable way. He 
lived — apart from his wives and a few lectures 
(supported by his followers) — on the generosity of 
his dupes all his life. 

In the Debate Sir A. C. Doyle tried to defend him 
against one grave charge I brought against the white 
Iamb. In 1866 a wealthy London widow, Mrs. Lyon, 
asked Daniel to get her into touch with her dead 
husband. The gifted medium did so at once, of 
course. For this he received a fee of thirty pounds, 
nominally as a subscription to the Spiritual Athenaeum, 
of which he was paid secretary. Daniel stuck to the 
lady, and got immense sums of money from her ; and 
a London court of justice compelled him to return 
the lot. 

Now, Sir A. C. Doyle, who said several times in the 
Debate that I did not know what I was talking about, 
while he had read " the literature of my opponents as 
well as my own," asserts : *' I have read the case very 
carefully, and I believe that Home behaved in a 
perfectly natural and honourable manner." He quotes 
Mr. Clodd (who has, apparently, been misled by 
Podmore's too lenient account of the case), but I 
prefer to deal with Sir Arthur's own assurance that 
he has " read the case very carefully." 

It was on in London, under Vice-Chancellor Gifford, 
from April 21 to May 1, 1868. Sir A. C. Doyle seems 
to regard Mrs. Lyon's affidavit as waste-paper. She 
swears that Home brought a fictitious message from 


her dead husband, ordering her to adopt Daniel and 
endow him, and she gave him at once <£26,000. She 
swears that, when Home's birthday came round, 
another fictitious message ordered her to give Daniel 
a further fat cheque, and she gave him £6,798. 
Sir A. C. Doyle may set aside all this as ** lies," 
because he is determined to have at least one snow- 
white medium in the nineteenth century, and his 
cause cannot afford to lose Home's miracles. But 
when he and other writers say that Home was 
acquitted of dishonourable conduct, they are, if they 
have read Gifford's decree, saying the exact opposite 
of the truth. It is enough to mention that Vice- 
Chancellor Gifford decided that '' the gifts and deeds 
QXQ fmuclident and void," and he added : — 

The system [Spiritualism], as presented by the 
evidence, is mischievous nonsense — well calculated on 
the one hand to delude the vain, the weak, the foolish, 
and the superstitious ; and on the other to assist the 
projects of the 7ieedi/ and the adventurer. Beyond all 
doubt there is plain law enough and plain sense 
enough to forbid and prevent the retention of acquisi- 
tions such as these by any medium, whether with or 
without a strange gift. 

That is the official judgment which Spiritualists 
constantly represent as acquitting Home of fraud ! 
This man, scornfully lashed as a greedy impostor 
from the British Bench, is the snow-white medium 
recommended to the public by Sir A. C. Doyle, 
Sir W. Barrett, Sir W. Crookes, and Sir 0. Lodge. 
Sir Arthur adds in his Vital Message (p. 55) that *' the 
genuineness of his psychic powers has never been 
seriously questioned." That statement is hardly less 
astounding. Home's performances, which we will 
examine in the third chapter, were regarded by the 


overwhelming majority of the cultivated people of his 
time as trickery of the most sordid description from 
beginning to end. Has Sir A. C. Doyle never heard 
of Browning's " Sludge " ? It expressed the opinion 
of nearly all London. 

As to Stainton Moses, the other lamb, an ex-minister 
who ran Home close in sleight-of-hand and foot (in 
the dark), it is enough to say, with Carrington, that 
"no test conditions were ever allowed to be imposed 
upon this medium." Spiritualists ought to quote 
that whenever they quote the miracles of Stainton 
Moses. His tricks were always performed — in very 
bad light (if any) — before a few chosen friends, who 
had not the least inclination to look for fraud. Home 
was never exposed, though he was once caught, 
because he chose his sitters. But Stainton Moses 
chose a far more exclusive circle of sitters, and never 
once had a critical eye on him. We shall see that 
the tricks themselves brand him as a fraud. He 
was not exposed ; but it was the sitters who were 
lambs, not Stainton Moses. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in effect, recommends two 
further mediums as snow-white. One is Kathleen 
Goligher, of Belfast, whose performances shall speak 
for her in our third chapter. The other is "Eva C," 
whose miracles will be examined in the second 
chapter. We shall see that she was detected cheating 
over and over again. At the present juncture, how- 
ever, I would make only a few general remarks about 
this living " lamb." 

In a work which was published in 1914 — in German 
by Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, and in French by 
Mme. Bisson (they are not two distinct books, as 
Bir A. C. Doyle says) — there are 150 photographs of 


" materializations " with this medium. We shall see 
that they tell their own story of crude imposture. 
In the introductory part of his book Baron Schrenck 
describes the character of the lady (pp. 51-4). He 
says, politely, that she has ** moral sentiments only 
in the ego-centric sense" (that is to say, none); that 
she " behaves improperly to herself "; that she '' lost 
her virginity before she was twenty " ; and that she 
has ** a lively, erotic imagination" and an "exag- 
gerated idea of her charms and her influence on the 
male sex." That is bad enough for a snow-white 
Vestal Virgin, a sacred portal of the new revelation. 
But worse was to follow ; and it was evident to me 
during the Debate that, while Sir A. C. Doyle twitted 
me with knowing nothing about these matters, he 
was himself quite ignorant of the developments of 
this case six years before. The young woman's real 
name, Marthe Beraud, had been concealed by Baron 
Schrenck, and her age mis-stated by six years, for 
a very good reason — she is the '' Marthe B." who 
was recommended to us in 1905 as a wonderful 
medium by Sir Oliver Lodge, and who was detected 
and exposed (in Algiers) in 1907 ! Baron Schrenck 
was forced to acknowledge her real age and name in 

Where, then, are the snow-whites ? Does Sir A. C. 
Doyle want us to go back to the pure early days of 
the movement ? Take the Foxes, who began the 
movement. In 1888 Margaretta Fox, who had 
married Captain Kane, the Arctic explorer, and had 
been brought to some sense of her misconduct by him, 
confessed (in the New York Herald, September 24) 
that the movement was from the start a gross fraud, 
engineered for profit by her elder sister, and that the 


whole Spiritualist movement of America was steeped 
in fraud and immorality. 

Perhaps Sir A. C. Doyle would plead that this 
appalling outburst of fraud, which poured over 
America from 1848 to 1888, was only the occasion of 
the appearance of genuine mediums. Well, who are 
they ? Take the mediums who founded Spiritualism 
in England from 1852 onward. Was Foster white ? 
As early as 1863 the Spiritualist Judge, Edmonds, 
learned '* sickening details of his criminality." W^as 
Colchester, who was detected and exposed, white ? 
What was the colour of the Holmes family, whose darling 
spirit-control, '' Katie King," got so much jewellery 
from poor old R. D. Owen before she was found out ? 
Are we to see no spots on the egregious " Dr." Monck, 
who pretended that he was taken from his bed in 
Bristol and put to bed in Swindon by spirit hands ? 
Or in corpulent Mrs. Guppy (an amateur who duped 
A. Russel Wallace for years), who swore that she 
had been snatched from her table in her home at 
Ball's Pond, taken across London (and through 
several solid walls) for three miles at sixty miles an 
hour, and deposited on the table in a locked room ? 
Was Charles Williams white ? He was, with Rita, 
detected by Spiritualists at Amsterdam in 1878 with 
a whole ghost-making apparatus in his possession. 
Were Bastian and Taylor white ? They were similarly 
exposed at Arnheim in 1874. Was Florence Cook, 
the pupil of Heme (the transporter of Mrs. Guppy at 
sixty miles an hour) and bewitcher of Sir W. Crookes, 
white ? We shall soon see. Was her friend and 
contemporary ghost-producer. Miss Showers, never 
exposed ? Or does Sir A. C. Doyle want us to believe 
in Morse, or Eglinton, or Slade, or the Davenport 


brothers, or Mrs. Fay, or Miss Davenport, or Duguid, or 
Fowler, or Hudson, or Miss Wood, or Mme. Blavatsky? 

These are not a few black sheep picked out of 
a troop of snowy fleeces. They are the great mediums 
of the first forty years of the movement. They are 
the men and women who converted Russel Wallace, 
and Crookes, and Robert Owen, and Judge Edmunds, 
and Vice-Admiral Moore, and all the other celebrities. 
They are the mediums whose exploits filled the 
columns of the Spiritaalist, the Medium and Daybreak^ 
and the Banner of Light. Cut these and Home and 
MosGS out of the chronicle, and you have precious 
little left on which to found a religion. 

Spiritualists think that they lessen the reproach to 
some extent by the ** grey " theory. Some mediums 
have genuine powers, but a time comes when the 
powers fail and, as the audience presses for a return 
on its money, they resort to trickery. That is only 
another way of saying that a medium is white until 
he is found out, which usually takes some years, as 
the conditions (dictated by the mediums) are the best 
possible for fraud and the worse possible for exposure. 

But Sir A. C. Doyle is not fortunate in his example. 
Indeed, nearly every statement he made in his debate 
with me was inaccurate. Eusapia Palladino was 
a typical ** grey," he says. " One cannot read her 
record," he assures us, '* without feeling that for the 
first fifteen years of her mediumship she was quite 
honest." An amazing statement ! Her whole career 
as a public medium lasted little more than fifteen 
years, and she tricked from the very beginning of it. 
In his New Revelation Sir Arthur assures the public 
that she ** was at least twice convicted of very clumsy 
and foolish fraud " (p. 46). 


Such statements are quite reckless. Eusapia 
Palladino tricked habituall}^ on the confession of 
Morselli and Flammarion and her greatest admirers, 
from the beginning of her public career. Eusapia 
began her public career in 1888, but was little known 
until 1892. She was exposed at Cambridge by the 
leading English Spiritualists in 1895, only three yea.vs 
after she had begun her performances on the great 
European stage. Myers and Lodge reported that not 
one of her performances (in 1895) was clearly genuine, 
and that her fraud was so clever (Myers said) that it 
** must have needed long practice to bring it to its 
present level of skill." Mr. Myers was quite right. 
She had cheated from the start. Schiaparelli, the 
great Italian astronomer, investigated her in 1892, 
and said that, as she refused all tests, he remained 
agnostic. Antoniadi, the French astronomer, studied 
her at Flammarion's house in 1898, and he found her 
performance *' fraud from beginning to end." Flam- 
marion himself reports that she tried constantly to 
get her hands free from control, and that she was 
caught lowering a letter-scale by means of a hair. 
Thus her common tricks had begun as early as 1898, 
1895, and even 1892. 

** Our hands are clean," Sir A. C. Doyle retorted to 
my charge of fraud. That is precisely what they are 
not. Spiritualists have from the beginning covered 
up fraud with the mantle of ingenious theories, like 
this ''grey" theory. Fifty years ago (1873) a Mr. 
Yolckmann, a Spiritualist, grasped ** Katie King," 
the pretty ghost who had duped Professor Crookes for 
months. He at once found that he had hold of the 
medium, Florence Cook ; but the other Spiritualists 
present tore him off, and put out the feeble light ; so 


Florence Cook continued for seven years longer to 
dupe Spiritualists, until she was caught again in just 
the same way in 1880. From the earliest days of 
materializations there were such exposures, and the 
Spiritualists condoned everything. The medium, 
they said, when the clentity of ghost and medium 
was too solidly prov d, had acted the part of ghost 
unconsciously, in a s^ate of trance. The ghosts had 
economized, using the medium's body instead of 
making one. Some even said that the ghost and 
medium coalesced again (to save the medium's life !) 
when a wicked sceptic seized the phantom. Some 
said, when gauzy stuff, such as any draper sells, or 
a curl of false hair, was found in the cabinet, that the 
spirits had forgotten to *' dematerialize " it. Some 
laid the blame on " wicked spirits" who got snow- 
white mediums into trouble. Some learnedly proved 
that thoughts of fraud in the mind of sceptics present 
had telepathically influenced the entranced medium ! 
These things are past. Sir A. C. Doyle may say. 
Not in the least. In the decade before the War 
exposures were as frequent as in the palmy days of 
the middle of the nineteenth century, and Spiritualist 
excuses were just as bad. Craddock, the most famous 
materializing medium in England, who had duped 
the most cultivated SpirituaHsts of London for years, 
was caught and fined £10 and costs at London in 
1906. Marthe Beraud, the next sensation of the 
Spiritualist world, was caught in 1907, and had to be 
transformed into ''Eva C." Miller, the wonderful 
San Francisco maker of ghosts, was exposed in 
France in 1908. Frau Abend, the marvel of Berlin 
and the pet of the German Spiritualist aristocracy, 
was exposed and arrested in 1909. Bailey, the pride 


of the Australian Spiritualists, was unmasked in 
France in 1910. Ofelia Corrales, the next nine 
days' wonder, passed among the black sheep in 1911 ; 
and Lucia Sordi, the chief medium of Italy, was 
exposed in the same year. In 1912 Linda Gazerra, 
the refined Italian lady who had duped scientific men 
and the Spiritualist world for three years, came to 
the same inevitable end ; and Mrs. Ebba Wriedt, the 
famous American direct-voice medium, met her 
disaster in Norway. In 1913 it was the turn of 
Carancini; in 1914 of Marthe Beraud in her new 
incarnation, *' Eva C." 

We will consider the trickery of these people in 
detail later. This mere list of names, of more than 
national repute, gathered from one single periodical 
(the German Psychische Studien), shows how the 
mischievous readiness of Spiritualists to find excuses, 
and their equally mischievous readiness to admit 
** phenomena " where real control is impossible, make 
the movement as rich in impostors to-day as it was 
half a century ago. It must be understood that 
behind each of these leading mediums — men and 
women of international interest — are thousands of 
obscurer men and women who cheat less cultivated 
and less critical folk, and are never detected. It is 
therefore useless to divide mediums into professional 
and amateur, or into black, white, and grey. You 
take a very grave risk with every one of them. You 
need a close familiarity with all the varieties of fraud, 
and these we will now carefully examine. We will 
then consider more patiently and courteously what 
phenomena remain in the Spiritualist world which 
are reasonably free from the suspicion of fraud. 

Chapter II 


The most thrilling expectation of every Spiritualist 
is to witness a materialization. The wild ghost, the 
ghost in a state of nature, the ghost which beckoned 
our grandmothers from their beds and waylaid our 
grandfathers when they passed the graveyard on dark 
nights, has become a mere legend. Hardly fifty years 
ago authentic ghost stories were as common as 
blackberries. But the growth of education and the 
establishment of exact inquiry into such matters have 
relegated all these stories to the realm of imagination. 
According to the Spiritualist, however, w^e have merely 
replaced the wild ghost by the tame ghost, the domes- 
ticated ghost of the stance room. The clever spirits 
of the other world, who could not when they were 
alive on earth detach a single particle from a living 
body (except with a knife), are now able to take a vast 
amount of material out of the medium's body and 
build it up in the space of quarter or half an hour 
into a hand, a face, or even a complete human body. 
This is the great feat of materialization. 

Let me truthfully record that many of the better- 
educated Spiritualists fight shy of belief in this class 
of phenomena. They know that in the history of the 
movement every single ** materializing medium " has 
sooner or later been convicted of fraud. They have, 
on reflection, seen that the formation, in the course 
of half an hour, of even a human hand — which is a 
marvellously compacted structure of millions of cells — 


18 HOW anosTs are made 

would be a feat of stupendous power and intelligence. 
They feel ttat, if all the scientific men in the world 
cannot make a single living cell, it is rather absurd 
to think that these spirit workers, whose messages do 
not reflect a very high degree of intelligence, can 
make a human face out of the slime or raw material 
of the medium's body in half an hour, and put all the 
atoms back in their places in the medium's body in 
another half hour. 

The faith of the great majority of Spiritualists is, 
of course, heroic enough to overlook all these diffi- 
culties. Indeed, it is amazing to find even students 
of science among them indifferent to the enormous 
intrinsic improbability of a materialization. During 
the debate at the Queen's Hall Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
had on the table before him a work which contained 
a hundred and fifty photographs of materializations. 
Several of these represented full-sized human busts 
(sometimes with the superfluous decoration of beards, 
spectacles, starched collars, ties, and tie-pins). One 
of them represented a full-sized human form, dressed 
in a bath robe. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a 
trained medical man, assured the audience that he 
believed that these were real forms, moulded out of 
the "ectoplasm" of the medium's body, in the space 
of less than half an hour, by spiritual powers ! Sir 
William Crookes believed in materializations of a still 
more wonderful nature, as we shall see. Dr. Russel 
Wallace believed implicitly in materializations. Sir 
W. Barrett and Sir 0. Lodge believe in materializa- 
tions, since they believe in the honesty of D. D. Home, 
who professed to materialize hands. 

So we must not blame the ordinary Spiritualist 
if he knows nothing about the tremendous internal 


difficulties of this class of phenomena, and the con- 
sistent and appalling career of fraud of mediums in 
this respect. Materialization is the crowning triumph 
of the medium, the most convincing evidence of the 
new religion. It goes on to-day in darkened rooms 
in London — done by men who have already been 
convicted in London police-courts — and all parts of 
the world. Fraud follows fraud, yet the believer 
hopes (and pays) on. Some of the phenomena are 
genuine, he says ; that is to say, some of the tricks 
were not proved to be fraudulent. Let us see how 
these things are done. 

The incomparable Daniel was the first, apparently, 
to open up this great field of Spiritualist evidence. 
In the early fifties he began to exhibit hands which 
the Spiritualists present were sure were not his 
hands. But we shall see how, even in our own day, 
Spiritualists easily take a stuffed glove, a foot, or 
even a bit of muslin to be a hand, in the weird light 
of the dark room ; and we will not linger over this. 

The real creator of this important department of 
the movement was Mrs. Underbill, the eldest of the 
three Fox sisters who founded Spiritualism. I mil 
tell the marvellous story of the three Foxes later, 
and will anticipate here only to the extent of saying 
that Leah, the eldest sister (Mrs. Fish, later Mrs. 
Underbill), was the organizing genius of the move- 
ment. She was an expert in fraud and a woman of 
business. Until her own sisters gave her away, forty 
years after the beginning of the movement, she was 
never exposed ; and even an exposure by her sister in 
the public Press and on the public stage in New York 
made no difference to her career. She was the Mme. 
Blavatsky, the Mrs. Eddy, of Spiritualism. 


Leah began in 1869, every other branch of 
Spiritualist conjuring having now been fully explored, 
to produce a ghost at her sittings. In the dark a 
veiled and luminous female figure walked solemnly 
about the room, and profoundly impressed the sitters. 
The mere fact of walking — ghosts have to glide 
nowadays — would tell a modern audience that the 
ghost was the very solid medium ; and the luminosity 
would have an aroma of phosphorus to a modern 
nostril. But the Americans of 1869 were not very 
critical. A few months later a wealthy New York 
banker, Livermore, lost his wife, and the "hyenas" 
— as Sir A. C. Doyle calls mediums who prey on the 
affections of the bereaved — hastened to relieve his 
grief and his purse. For four hundred sittings, 
spread over a space of six years, Katie Fox imper- 
sonated his dead wife. As Katie Fox confessed in 
1888 that Spiritualism was *' all humbuggery — every 
bit of it," we need not enter into a learned analysis 
of these sittings. 

English mediums were put on their mettle, and 
after a little practice in private they announced that 
they had the same powers of materialization, and it 
was unnecessary to bring over the Americans. Mrs. 
Guppy, the pride of London Spiritualism, opened this 
new and rich vein. The story of Mrs. Guppy need 
not be told here. It is enough that, while she was 
still Miss Nichol, she was the chief medium to convert 
Dr. Russel Wallace to Spiritualism ; and that, on the 
other hand, she was the lady who professed that she 
was aerially transported by spirits from Highbury to 
Lamb's Conduit Street, and through several solid 
walls, in the space of three minutes. Mrs. Guppy 
was above suspicion : first because she was unpaid, 


and secondly because she exposed several fraudulent 
mediums. So Mrs. Guppy set up her little peep-show 
in the first mouth of 1872, and drew fashionable 
London. But the performance was rather tame. 
While Mrs. Guppy sat in the cabinet, a little white 
face appeared, in the dim moonlight, at an opening 
near the top of the cabinet. It did not speak, as the 
New York ghosts did. Dolls do not speak. 

A few months later Heme and Williams, the pro- 
fessional friends of Mrs. Guppy whose spirit-controls 
had wafted that very voluminous lady as rapidly as a 
Zeppelin across London, set up a more robust per- 
formance. As they sat in the cabinet (unseen), 
spirit-forms emerged — dim, luminous, but unmis- 
takably alive — and moved about the room. It wag 
the first appearance in England of those famous 
spirits, John King, the converted pirate, and Katie 
King, his daughter, who had been a great attraction 
in America for several years. John's beard looked 
rather theatrical, and his lamp smelt of phosphorus. 
But what would you? Spirits have to use earthly 
chemicals ; and they would find plenty of phosphorus 
in the brain of Charlie Williams, not to speak of his 
pockets, which were never searched. Again we may 
save ourselves the trouble of a learned analysis of the 
phenomena by recalling that Williams presently dis- 
solved partnership with Heme, and entered into an 
alliance with Rita ; and that in 1878 the precious pair 
were seized during a performance, and searched, at 
Amsterdam. Rita had a false beard, six handker- 
chiefs, and a bottle of phosphorized oil. Williams 
had the familiar false black beard and dirty drapery 
of *' John King," and bottles of phosphorized oil and 


The Spiritualist reader here impatiently observes 
that I am merely picking out a few little irregularities 
in the early days of the movement. Far from it. I 
am scientifically studying the preparatory stages of 
one of the classic manifestations of the movement : 
the materializations of Florence Cook, which are 
vouched for by Sir W. Crookes, Sir A. C. Doyle, and, 
apparently, all the leaders of the movement. If the 
Spiritualist wishes, like other people, honestly to 
understand " Katie King," he or she must read this 
part of the story which I am giving, and which is 
generally omitted (though it may be read in any 
history of the movement). 

Florence Cook was a pretty little Hackney girl of 
sixteen when Heme and Williams began. She 
attended stances at their house in Lamb's Conduit 
Street, and she was so impressed that she became a 
pupil of Heme. She and her father seem to have 
understood each other very well, and she very shortly 
began to give, to paying guests, materialization- 
stances in their house at Hackney. Florence went 
one better than Mrs. Guppy and Heme. There was 
a lamp in the room — at the far side of the room — and 
you saw faces plainly at the opening in the cabinet. 
As her "power " developed, the ghost began to leave 
the cabinet and walk about the room and talk to the 
sitters. Florence remained bound with rope in the 
cabinet while ** Katie King " stalked abroad. You did 
not see her, it is true, but you had her word for it. 
She was not bound by the spectators — nor by herself, 
of course. She was bound by the S23irits. A rope was 
put on her lap, the curtains were drawn, and presently 
you discovered Florrie, '* securely " bound and in a 
trance, in the cabinet. The curtains were drawn 


again when the ghost, in flowing white drapery, 
walked the room. 

Meantime, and at a very early date, a Manchester 
Spiritualist named Blackburn privately engaged to 
give Florrie an annual fee if she would not take money 
at the door ; so she became an " unpaid " and highly 
respectable medium. Jewellery is, of course, not 
money, and Florrie exacted jewellery (as the 
Spiritualist Volckmann found and said in the London 
Press at the time, when he wanted to attend) from 
would-be sitters through her father. It is said that 
she looked, in features, remarkably like a Jewess. 

Her fame reached the ears of a brilliant young 
scientist. Professor W. Crookes, and he invited her to 
materialize at his house. She soon laid aside all 
dread of the scientific man. In three niggardly little 
letters, which he never republished, Crookes described 
in 1874 the wonderful things done at his house. 
While Florrie lay in an improvised cabinet, or behind 
a curtain, the beautiful and romantic and quite 
different maiden, Katie King, walked about his room. 
She played with Crookes's children, and told them 
stories about her earthly life in India long ago. She 
talked affably to his guests, and took his arm as she 
walked. There was not the least doubt about her 
solidity. The wicked sceptic who suggests that Katie 
King was a muslin doll or a streak of light has 
certainly not read Crookes's letters. He felt her pulse, 
he sounded her heart and lungs, he cut off a tress of 
her lovely auburn hair, he took her in his arms, and 
he — well, he breaks off here and simply asks us what 
any man would do in the circumstances ? We assume 
that he found that she had lips a^nd. wa^rm. bveath like 
any other maiden. 


' Florence Cook's opinion of scientific men would 
to-day be priceless. I will say, on behalf of Sir 
W. Crookes, that he never obtruded this sacred expe- 
rience on the public. He ''accidentally" destroyed 
all the negatives and photographs he had taken of 
Katie King. He forbade friends, to whom he had 
given copies, ever to publish them. The three short 
letters he wrote to the Spiritualist (February 6, 
April 3, and June 5, 1874 — I have, of course, read 
them) are now rare. He wrote them out of chivalry, 
because a rival Spiritualist, Volckmann (who married 
Mrs. Guppy), got admission to the Hackney sanctuary 
(by a present of jewellery) and exposed Florence 
(December 9, 1873). He saw at once that she was 
impersonating the spirit, and he seized it. Other 
Spiritualists present, supporters of Florrie, tore him 
off, and turned out the lamp ; and five minutes later 
Florence was found, bound and peacefully entranced, 
in her cabinet. In the hubbub that followed Professor 
Crookes gave his modest testimonial to Florrie's virtue. 
Spiritualists generally accepted her version, and she 
continued to make ghosts until 1880, when Sir George 
Sitwell and Baron von Buch exposed her in precisely 
the same way. 

No Spiritualist can quarrel with me for dwelling on 
this famous materialization. It is supposed to be the 
mostly firmly authenticated in the whole movement. 
Sir W. Crookes said, quite late in life, that he had 
** nothing to retract"; and every Spiritualist who 
quotes his high authority endorses the materialization 
of Katie King. The majority of the public to-day 
will merely conclude that some scientific men are 
worse witnesses on such matters than dockers, and 
that the disgust of scientific men like Sir E. Ray 


Lankester and Sir Bryan Donkin has a very solid 
foundation. Even at the time there were leading 
Spiritualists like Sergeant Cox who regarded the 
affair with bewilderment and suspected that all 
materializations were fraud. 

What can be said for Sir W. Crookes ? He alleges 
that the medium and the ghost were unmistakably 
different persons. Katie King was taller than Florrie. 
But Florence Cook, like her contemporary, Miss 
Showers, was seen to walk on tip-toe, and alter her 
stature, when she was the ghost. Sir W. Crookes 
nowhere says that he took the elementary precaution 
of measuring ghost and medium with their dresses 
drawn up to their knees. He says that the lock of 
hair which Katie gave him as a memento was auburn, 
and Florrie's hair was very dark brown. But we do 
not doubt that on the last occasion the ghost was not 
Florence Cook. Other differences he finds, in a dim 
light, are negligible. If the modern Spiritualist 
really believes Sir W. Crookes, as he professes to do, 
he must come to this ultra-miraculous conclusion : 
The spiritual powers in this case did not merely take 
some matter out of Florence Cook's body, but they 
took more than the whole substance of it, because 
Crookes says that Katie was taller and broader than 
Florrie ! And, to cap this supreme miracle, he on 
one occasion saw ghost and medium together, and 
apparently Florrie was as solid as ever ! The spirits 
had in this case multiplied nine stone into eighteen 
or nineteen. 

After twenty years of religious controversy I am a 
patient man, but I decline to argue with any one 
who doubts that Florrie Cook (four times caught in 
fraud, and a pupil of Heme) impersonated the ghost. 


Mr. F. Podmore saw the photographs which Professor 
Crookes took. He says that ghost and medium are 
the same person. Crookes himself was nervous, in 
spite of Florrie's charms, and he begged to be allowed 
to see ghost and medium plainly together. The artful 
Florence could not manage that in his house. Once 
she let him look at her, lying on the ground, but he 
saw no face or hands ; and a bundle of clothes and a 
pair of boots are not quite clearly a living person. 
He pressed again. Florence— he tells us this very 
naively — borrowed his lamp (a bottle of phosphorized 
oil) and tested its penetrating power, and then told 
him he should see both ghost and medium in her 
house. He went, and we are not surprised that he 
saw them. 

If any Spiritualist of our time really doubts 
that on this occasion there were two girls, I 
invite him to read carefully Sir W. Crookes' s 
account of the famous farewell scene. Katie pro- 
claimed that her mission was over (she had converted 
a scientific man), and this was to be her last appear- 
ance. Florrie (who was in a trance, of course) wept, 
vainly implored her to visit this earth again, and 
sank, broken-hearted, to the floor. Katie directed 
Crookes— who stood, mute, with his phosphorus lamp 
in the middle of this pretty comedy— to see to Florrie, 
and, when he turned round again, Katie King had 
vanished for ever. That is to say, she had not been 
re-absorbed in the medium's body, as Spiritualist 
theory demands, but had gone in the oj^posite direction 
while his hack was twrnecl! 

Now there you have the most wonderful, classic, 
historic materialization in the whole Spiritualist 
history. It is attested by a distinguished man of 


science. It is endorsed by all the Spiritualist leaders 
of our time. And it is piffle from beginning to end. 
The evidence would not justify a man in drowning 
a mouse. The control was ridiculously inadequate. 
The imposture was palpable. If Sir W. Crookes had 
taken the scientific precaution of spreading a few 
tacks on the carpet, or waxing a bent pin in the 
ghost's chair, he would have heard the Hackney 
dialect at its richest. It was reserved for two Oxford 
undergraduates to show Sir W. Crookes how to 
investigate ghosts. They seized '' Marie," Florrie's 
next spirit, in 1880; and they found they had in 
their arms the charming Florence, in her lingerie. 
Crookes had never searched the ample black velvet 
dress she used to wear. 

It is hardly worth while running over all the ghostly 
frauds since then, but a word about Florrie's friend 
and contemporary. Miss Showers, will be found 
instructive. Miss Showers was a really unpaid 
medium ; though she received a good deal in the way 
of jewellery and other presents from admirers of her 
fair and aristocratic ghost, " Lenore Fitzwarren." 
She was a general's daughter, and above suspicion. 
No one dreamed of searching her. On one occasion 
she allowed Florence Cook to peep into her cabinet ; 
and Florence — hawks do not pick out hawks' eyes — 
assured the public that she plainly saw Miss Showers 
and *' Lenore," and even a second ghost, simul- 
taneously. But, alas for the fair Lenore ! Sergeant 
Cox, who was very sceptical, had Miss Showers at his 
country-house in 1874 ; and Miss Cox, a born daughter 
of Eve, tried to draw the curtain and peep into the 
cabinet. Miss Showers fought for her curtain, and 
the ghostly headdress fell off, and the game was up. 


This was only four months after the exposure of 
Florence Cook. The two most certainly genuine and 
respectable mediums in England were unmasked 
within four months. R. D. Owen's "Katie King" 
had been exposed in America in the previous year, 
the last sad year of the old man's life. 

One by one the others followed. In spite of 
darkness, in spite of solemn promises extracted from 
sitters not to break the circle or seize the ghost, the 
materializers were all exposed. One man shot a 
ghost with ink, and the ink was found on the medium. 
Stuart Cumberland squirted cochineal on a ghost, and 
the medium could not wash it away. One American 
with a gun had a shot at a ghost. At another place 
tin-tacks were strewn on the floor, and the spirit's 
language was painful to hear. In 1876 Eglinton was 
exposed by Mr. Colley ; he had in his trunk the beard 
and draperies of his ghost "Abdullah." In 1877 
Miss Wood was caught at Blackburn, and Dr. Monck 
was caught and sent to jail. In 1878 Rita and 
Williams were caught, with all their tawdry ghost- 
properties, at Amsterdam. Spiritualists were getting 
a little nervous, though as a rule they accepted every 
excuse. The medium had acted ** unconsciously," or 
under the influence of evil spirits. Sir A. C. Doyle 
boasts that it is Spiritualists who weed out frauds. 
On the contrary, they have shown a very grave 
willingness to accept the flimsiest excuses and re- 
instate the medium. Miss Wood was exposed, for 
instance, in 1877. They at once admitted her defence, 
that she had been quite unconscious in impersonating 
the ghost, and she went on. In 1882 a sceptical sitter 
seized the "pretty little Indian girl" who came out 
of the cabinet while Miss Wood was entranced in it ; 


and the Indian girl-ghost was Miss Wood walking on 
her knees, swathed in muslin. 

Ah, but this is ancient history, your Spiritualist 
friend says. Listen ! About fifteen years ago, when 
I was already making that inquiry into Spiritu- 
alism which Spiritualists say I have never made, I 
was told by a group of London Spiritualists, all 
cultivated men and women, that it was useless to go 
the round of the mediums who advertised in Light, 
since they were " all frauds." I was told that the one 
genuine medium in London was a certain F. G. F. 
Craddock, who performed in a studio at the back 
of Mr. Gambier Bolton's house. The minor j)heno- 
mena I saw did not impress me, and I asked to be 
allowed to see these wonderful materializations of 
Mr. Craddock. Three ghosts — a nun, a clown, and 
a Pathan— walked the room (successively) while 
Craddock sat (unseen) in a trance. I saw pictures of 
these materialized forms, and was told that they were 
accurate. But before I could get admission Craddock 
left, and he began to hold sittings for his own profit 
at Pinner. And on March 18, 1906, the " ghost " was 
seized, in the usual way, and found to be Craddock. 
On June 20 (see the Tiines of June 21) Craddock was 
fined ten pounds, and five guineas cost, at Edgware 
Police Court, on the charge " that he, being a rogue 
and a vagabond, did unlawfully use certain subtle 
craft, means, or device, by palmistry or otherwise, to 
deceive the said Mark Mayhew and others." He had 
been controlled as carelessly as F. Cook was in 1874. 
He had smuggled in masks and drapery, and 
impersonated his ghosts. 

After all. Sir A. C. Doyle may say, in his blunt way, 
this was 1906. I do not know if he knows it — he 


seems to have an exceedingly limited knowledge of his 
own movement — but Craddock is giving materialization- 
seances in or near London to-day; and prominent 
Spiritualists know it, and condone it, on the ground 
that some of his phenomena are genuine. 

The imposture has continued to flourish in all parts 
of the Spiritualist world since 1906. In 1907 it was 
the turn of Marthe Beraud, of whom I will say more 
presently. In 1908 exposure fell upon Miller, the 
most famous of the American materializing mediums. 
Such was his repute that the French Spiritualists 
invited him to Paris, and were delighted with him. 
The figures which appeared while he sat before the 
cabinet were suspiciously like dolls, but there was no 
mistake about the *' beautiful girl " (in dull, red light) 
who came out, and offered her hand, when Miller was 
(presumably) inside the cabinet. But when the spirits 
announced that it was improper to strip and search 
him, and when they said that, though he was an 
'* unpaid " medium, they must make him a nice little 
present before he went back to San Francisco, there 
was a chill in the Spiritualist world. And when he 
produced the ghosts of Luther's wife and Melanchthon, 
when they found bits of tulle and a perfumed cloth in 
the cabinet after a stance, they sent Miller back to 
America without his present. 

This fiasco, which agitated the Spiritualist world in 
the beginning of 1909, had not yet been forgotten 
when, in October of the same year, Frau Anna Abend 
and her husband were arrested by the police at Berlin. 
Frau Abend was the leading German medium. 
Strings of motor-cars stretched before her door of an 
afternoon. For several years she and her husband 
had duped and fascinated Berlin by their accurate 


knowledge of the dead you wished to see. You heard 
on every side, what you hear on every side in London 
to-day: *'I was quite unknown to the medium," and 
** She could not j^ossiblfj know by natural means what 
the spirits told me." The police thought otherwise. 
They found in her cabinet tulle enough to drape six 
ghosts ; and they found in her house quite a detective- 
bureau of information about dead folk and possible 
sitters, and a secret address to which she had the 
flowers sent which her spirits would produce as 
** apports." The whole machinery of her information 
and trickery was laid bare. Was she ruined ? Not 
a bit of it. She and her husband got off on technical 
grounds, and the Spiritualists showered congratula- 
tions on them and set them up again. ^ 

In 1910 our Spiritualist journal, Light, which is so 
zealous to root out fraud, announced that a really 
genuine materializing medium had appeared in Costa 
Rica. It seemed a safe distance away, but Professor 
Reichel, of France, had actually been to Costa Rica 
and found it a flagrant imposture at the very time 
when Light was confirming the faith of English 
Spiritualists with the glorious news. 

Ofelia Corrales, the medium in question, was the 
daughter of a high civic functionary of San Jos6 ; an 
unpaid medium, you notice. As soon as Reichel 
arrived he found that the wonderful manifestation 
which the Spiritualist journals of the world had 
announced was well known locally to be a hoax. The 
ghost was a servant-girl, who was recognized by 
everybody, smuggled in at the back door. Ofelia, 
under pressure, admitted this. Her '' spirit-control," 

1 I take this from the German psychic journal, Psychischc Studien 
Nov. , 1909. 


she explained, could not ** materialize," so directed 
her to bring in this girl, who resembled her "in the 
last incarnation but one." Sometimes her mother 
took the part, and she was one night embraced by 
an ardent Costa Bican sitter. Reichel assisted at 
some of her performances, but the girl declined to 
materialize a ghost. What she did get was a chorus 
of ghostly voices in the dark. It says something for 
the robustness of Professor Reichel's psychic faith 
that, though the music was *' rotten," though the 
whole family was suspect and all the members of it 
were present, though he caught the girl cheating and 
her " ghost " was an acknowledged imposture, he 
believed that this music was a "genuine" pheno- 
menon ! He was not going to make a journey to 
Costa Rica for nothing. 

To English Spiritualists this case ought to be 
particularly interesting, because among the gentle 
Ofelia's admirers in San Jos6 was an Englishman, 
Mr. Lindo, and it was he who sent the outrageous 
account to Light. According to him — and he was 
present — they all saw Ofelia floating in the air. Now, 
Reichel had taken with him some phosphorized paper, 
and by the light of this he saw that Ofelia was 
standing on a stool. In fact, she fell off the stool, 
and was ignominiously exposed. What is worse, 
Reichel says {Psychische Studien, April, 1911, p. 224) 
that he had expressly warned Lindo, who used his 
name, that he " would not be mixed up with such 
a burlesque," and that the minutes of the sittings 
were grossly exaggerated by Ofelia's father. So much 
for first-hand Spiritualist testimony in Light. The 
French Annates des Sciences Psijchiques gave an 
equally false account. The German Psychische 


Studien alone called it '' a conglomerate of stupidity 
and lies." It certainly was ; but when the whole 
truth was known Light mildly described it as " a 
girlish prank." It was calculated and shameless 

A few months later it was the turn of Lucia Sordi, 
a famous Italian medium, a young married woman of 
the peasant class, assisted by her two girls. Her 
marvels put Eusapia Palladino in the shade. The 
guests were not merely touched, but bitten ! A man's 
hat was brought from the hall and put on his head. 
The cat was brought in through the solid walls. The 
table was not merely lifted up, but carried into the hall. 
Professor Tanfani and other scientific men were taken 
in. Four *' materialized spirits " seemed to be in the 
room at once, while Lucia was bound to her chair. 
They fastened her in a crate, and it made little dif- 
ference. In 1911 Baron von Schrenck-Notzing went 
to Rome and exposed her. She could get out of any 
bandages. But when the War broke out she was 
still occupying the leisure hours of certain Italian 

Meantime, Dr. Imoda, of Turin, university teacher 
of science, was investigating the marvels of Linda 
Gazerra. Linda was not exactly an unpaid medium, 
but she was the cultivated daughter of a professional 
man. Being a lady and a good Catholic, she could 
not, of course, be stripped and searched. So she did 
wonderful things, which Imoda gravely watched and 
described and photographed for three years. Her 
*' control" was *' Vincenzo," a young officer who had 
been killed in a duel ; and a terrible chap he was to 
choose so respectable and pious a medium. Things 
simply flew about when he was at work. At other 


times she ** apported " birds and flowers, and the 
ghosts that materialized beside her — you could plainly 
see both her and the ghost — were very 'pretty, though 
remarkably flat-faced, and fond of muslin. As Linda's 
hands were controlled by the sitters, it did not 
matter that she insisted on absolute darkness until 
she pleased to say *' Foco " (" Light ") and let you 
take a photograph. She had a three years' run. 
Then Schrenck-Notzing studied her at Paris in the 
spring of 1911. She treated him to a "witches' 
Sabbath," he says. But he soon found that her feet 
were not where a lady ought to keep her feet. He 
felt a spirit-touch, grasped the touching limb, and 
found that he had the virtuous Linda's foot. 
Then he sewed her in a sack, and the spirits were 
powerless. Her materializations and tricks were 
simple. She brought her birds and flowers and 
muslin and masks (or pictures) in her hair (which 
was largely false, and never examined) and her under- 
clothing, and she, by a common trick, released her 
hands and feet from control to manipulate them. 

This Baron Schrenck, you think, was a terrible 
fellow at exposures. Unhappily, our last instance 
must be the exposure of his own medium, Eva C. 
This will fitly crown the <3hapter for two reasons. 
First, because Sir A. C. Doyle recommends her to us 
as a genuine materializing medium of our own times. 
He says in the Debate that, while Spiritualists have 
been much '* derided " for claiming that spirits build 
up temporary forms out of the medium's body, 
" recent scientific investigation shows that their 
assertion was absolutely true. (Cheers.)" I quote 
the printed Debate (p. 32), and it will be recognized 
that here at least I am not shirking my opponent's 


strongest evidence, for Sir A. C. Doyle at once 
explains that he means the case of Eva C. He gave 
his own (quite inaccurate) version of the facts, and, to 
the delight of his supporters, he went on : — 

Don't yoa think it is simply the insanity of 
incredulity to waive that aside ? Imagine discussing 

what happened in 1866 when you have scientific 

facts of this sort remaining unanswered. 

So, you see, I was very heavily punished in that 
contest, and I have to try to redeem my " insanity " ; 
but perhaps the reader will remember what Sir A. C. 
Doyle forgot, that he had stipulated that I should 
open the debate and deal ivith his hooks. No doubt 
I was quite free to take other evidence also, but I had 
an idea that, since this evidence was published in 
1914 and Sir Arthur's books were published in 1918 
and 1919, he had not mentioned it because he 
disdained it. 

The other reason why the case of Eva C. is important 
is because it shows us modern scientific men at work. 
In the earlier days of the movement faking was easy. 
No one searched a medium, especially a lady medium. 
She could have yards of butter-cloth or muslin and 
even dolls or masks under her skirts. Even now the 
ordinary medium is not searched, as a rule. A friend 
of mine went recently to a materializing medium near 
London — it is all going on still — and w-as allowed to 
feel the medium over his clothes. He could easily 
tell that the man had yards of muslin wrapped round 
his body, but he said nothing, and he got his money's 
worth ; a man dressed in muslin, in a bad light, being 
recognized by Spiritualists as a deceased relative. 
Most materializations are still the medium in a mask 
or beard and muslin. In some cases, in very poor 


light, the ghost is merely a white rag, a picture, 
or even a faint patch of light from a lantern, or a 
phosphorized streak. 

Now we come to the ** scientific facts." Half the 
professors and other scientific men quoted as adherents 
by modern Spiritualist writers and speakers are not 
Spiritualists at all. Flammarion, Ochorowicz, Foa, 
Bottazzi, Kichet,deYesme, Schrenck-Notzing,Morselli, 
Flournoy, Maxwell, Ostwald, etc., are not, and never 
were, Spiritualists. Most of them regard Spiritualism 
as childish and mischievous. But they believe that 
mediums have remarkable psychic powers, and they 
admit levitations and (in many cases) materializations. 
They think that a mysterious force of the living 
medium, not spirits, does these things, and they talk 
of a *' new science." I agree with them that the idea 
of spirits strolling along from the Elysian fields to 
play banjoes and lift tables and make ghosts for us 
is rather peculiar, but I am not sure that their idea 
is much less peculiar. However, they promise us 
research under scientific conditions, and they say 
that they have got materializations under such 
conditions. "Eva C." is the grand example. 

Who is this mysterious lady ? I have already let 
the reader into the secret. Sir A. C. Doyle may 
justly plead that he does not read German ; and the 
French version of her exploits is, he may be surprised 
to hear, very different from Baron Schrenck's fuller 
version in German, and very wrong and misleading. 
But does Sir Arthur never read the Proceedings of the 
Society for Psychical Research ? 

As long ago as July, 1914, it contained a very good 
article on Marthe Beraud, which tells most of the 
facts (except about her morals), and quite openly 


disdains these wonderful photographs which have 
made such an impression on Sir A. C. Doyle. From 
that article, which betrays, in the official organ of the 
Society, almost the same ''insanity of incredulity" 
as I did, he would have learned things that might 
have saved him from the worst ** howler " of the 
Debate. It tells that "Eva C," as was well known 
all over the continent in 1914, was Marthe Beraud, 
the medium of the "Villa Carmen materializations" 
in Algiers in 1905. It gives a lengthy report on the case 
by an Algiers lawyer, M. Marsault, who knew the family 
at the Villa Carmen intimately, and often saw the 
performances ; and this report contains an explicit 
confession by Marthe that she had no abnormal 
powers whatever. To excuse herself she said that 
there was a trap-door in the room, and " ghosts " 
were introduced by others. That was a lie, for there 
was no trap-door ; and those who obstinately wished 
to believe in the ghosts rejected the whole of Marsault's 
weighty evidence on the ground that he said there 
was a trap- door ! 

I have before me photographs of the Algiers ghost 
and of Eva C.'s ghost. They plainly show Marthe 
dressed up as a ghost, in the familiar old way, while 
Professor Richet gravely photographs her, and Sir 
Oliver Lodge recommends these things to our serious 
notice. However, Marthe found Algiers unhealthy 
after this, and she returned to France and set up in 
the materializing trade. Mme. Bisson found her and 
adopted her, and changed her name ; and Baron von 
Schrenck-Notzing settled down to a three years' 
study of her marvellous performances. It was on 
the strength of his book and photographs that Miss 
Verrall in 1914 (in the Proceedings S. P. R.) gave a 


verdict not much different from my own. She found 
some evidence of abnormal power, and a great deal 
of fraud. I see no evidence whatever of abnormal 
psychic power if — it is not clear — this is what Miss 
Verrall means. Yet Sir A. C. Doyle, who seems to 
know nothing about the matter beyond Mme. Bisson's 
worthless work, puts the facts before a London 
audience in the year 1920 in the language I have 

In the beginning Marthe plainly impersonated the 
ghost, as Baron Schrenck admits. He believes that 
she did it unconsciously. The sooner that excuse for 
fraudulent mediums is abandoned the better. She was 
quite obviously not in a trance, though she pretended 
to be, throughout the whole three years. For smaller 
** ghosts" (white patches, streaks, arms, etc.) she 
used muslin, gloves, rubber — all sorts of things. As 
a rule, she knew when they were going to let off the 
magnesium-flare and photograph her. She had 
had ample time behind the curtain to arrange her 
effects. In one photograph, taken too suddenly, 
she has a white rag on her knee, which would look 
like a hand in the red light, and her real hand is 
holding the ** ghost" over her head! After that 
Baron Schrenck sadly admitted that she used her 
hands. Mme. Bisson does not ; so Sir Arthur does 
not know this. In another photograph she is sup- 
posed to accept a cigarette in a materialized third 
hand. It is obviously her bare foot, and, if you look 
closely, you see that her "face" is a piece of white 
stuff pinned to the curtain. She is really leaning 
back and stretching up her foot. The book reeks 
with cheating. 

After a time she began to stick or paste on the 


cabinet or the curtain pictures cut out of the current 
illustrated papers, and daubed with paint, provided 
with false noses, or adorned with beards and mous- 
taches. President Wilson has a heavy cavalry 
moustache and a black eye ; but the glasses, collar, 
tie, and tie-pin, and even the marks of the scissors, 
are unmistakable. Baron Schrenck was forced to 
admit that dozens of pinholes were found (not by 
him) on the cabinet-wall, and that the pins must have 
been smuggled in, deceptively, in spite of a control 
which he claimed to be perfect. In fact, poor Baron 
Schrenck was driven from concession to concession 
until his case was very limp. Of all these things 
Sir A. C. Doyle knew nothing ; and, although he had 
the portrait of President Wilson in his hands at the 
Queen's Hall, only disguised by a moustache and 
a few daubs of paint, he assured the audience he 
believed that it was the ectoplasm of the medium's 
body moulded by spirit forces into a human form ! 

The point of interest to us is to find how the 
medium concealed her trappings. No medium was 
ever more rigorously controlled, yet the fraud is 
obvious. The answer shows that you can almost 
never be sure of your medium. She was stripped 
naked before every sitting and sewn into black tights. 
Her mouth and hair were always examined. Occa- 
sionally her sex-cavity was examined. South African 
detectives have told me how this receptacle is used 
for smuggling diamonds, and, as Marthe was rarely 
examined there by a competent and reliable witness, 
she probably often used it. Dr. Schrenck admits 
that the outlet of her intestinal tube was scarcely 
ever examined until very late in the inquiry, and an 
independent doctor gave positive reason to suspect 


that she used this. There is only one photograph in 
the book that shows a ghost which, tightly wrapped 
up (and nearly all show plain marks of folding, as 
Baron Schrenck admits), might be too large for such 
concealment ; and the careful reader w'ill find that on 
these occasions there was no control at all ! They 
were impromptu sittings, suddenly decided upon by 
Marthe herself. 

There is strong reason to believe that usually she 
swallowed her material and brought it up at will from 
her gullet or stomach. More than a hundred cases of 
this power are known, and there is much positive 
evidence that Marthe was a '* ruminant." She some- 
times bled copiously from the mouth and gullet, and 
she used the mouth much to manipulate the gauzy 
stuff. When I mentioned this well-known theory of 
Marthe Beraud Sir Arthur laughed. He said that 
he doubted if I had read the book I professed to have 
read, because Marthe had a net sewn round her head, 
which ** disproved" my theory. He summoned me 
to retract. He said I had *' slipped up pretty badly." 

Well, the theory was not mine, but that of 
a doctor w^ho had studied Marthe, and who has little 
difficulty in dealing with the net. Had it not been 
the end of the debate, however, our audience would 
have heard a surprising reply. They w'ould have 
learned that the net was used only in seven sittings 
out of hundreds, and that the medium then compelled 
them to abandon it. They would have learned that 
the net, instead of *' not making the slightest difference 
to the experiments," as Sir A. C. Doyle says, made 
four out of these seven sittings completely barren of 
results ! And they would have further learned that 
when the net was on, and Marthe could not use her 


moufch, she stipulated that the back of her clothing 
should be left open. 

Just one further detail of this sordid imposture. 
I said that on one occasion Marthe allowed the very 
title of the paper out of which she cut her portraits, 
Le Miroir, to appear in the photograph, and gave it 
a spiritual meaning. Now, that is Mme. Bisson's 
version. But Baron Schrenck's version is in flagrant 
contradiction, and an examination of the photographs 
proves that he is right. The words were caught, 
accidentally, by a camera placed in the cabinet, and 
the excuse was concocted the next day ! 

Enough of these miserable " materializations." 
They are always dishonest. Every materializing 
medium has been found out. Almost since the birth 
of the movement there have been, and are to-day, 
hundreds of these men and women, paid and unpaid, 
who have masqueraded as ghosts, or duped their 
sitters in a dull red light with muslin and butter- ' ^' 
cloth and phosphorized paper, with dolls and masks 
and stuffed gloves and stockings and rubber arms. 
If Spiritualists would persuade us that they are 
scrupulously honest, they must drive the last of these 
people out of their fold, and they must expunge 
every reference to these materializations from their 
literature. When we get such phenomena with 
a medium who has been searched by competent and 
independent witnesses, whose body-openings have been 
sealed and clothing changed, in a cabinet set up by 
independent inquirers, with each hand and foot con- 
trolled by a separate man, or in a good light, we may 
begin to talk. Never yet has the faintest suggestion 
of a phenomenon been secured under such circum- 


Chapter III 


I NOW pass at once to a class of Spiritualistic mani- 
festations which would be put forward by any well- 
educated occultist as the most authentic of all. 
Reference was made a few pages back to a large 
group of scientific and professional men who believe 
in what they call '' mediumistic phenomena." They 
are not Spiritualists, and it is one of the questionable 
features of recent Spiritualist literature that they are 
often described as such. Thus the astronomers 
Flammarion and Schiaparelli are quoted. But Flam- 
marion says repeatedly in his latest and most im- 
portant book {Les forces naturelles inconnues, 1907) 
that he is not and never was a Spiritualist (see p. 581), 
and he includes a long letter from Schiaparelli, who 
disavows all belief even in the phenomena (p. 93). 
Professor Richet, who believes in materializations, is 
not a Spiritualist. Professor Morselli, who also 
accepts the facts, speaks of the Spiritualist interpre- 
tation of them as ''childish, absurd, and immoral." 
The long lists of scientific supporters which the 
Spiritualists publish are in part careless or even 

But such professors as Richet, Ochorowicz, de 
Vesme, Flournoy, etc., and men like Flammarion, 
Carrington, Maxwell, etc., do believe that raps and 
other physical phenomena are produced by abnormal 
powers of the medium. They believe that when the 



medium sits in or before the cabinet, in proper con- 
ditions, the floor and table are rapped, the furniture 
is lifted or moved about, musical instruments are 
played, and impressions are made in plaster, although 
the medium has not done it with his or her hands or 
feet. As I said, these scientific men scorn the idea 
that '* spirits " from another world play these pranks. 
They look for unknown natural forces in the medium. 
They think that they have excluded fraud. We shall 
see. Meantime, the assent of so many scientific men 
to the phenomena themselves gives this class of 
experiences more plausibility than others. 

Most of these men base their opinion upon the 
remarkable doings of the Italian medium, Eusapia 
Palladino, and we shall therefore pay particular 
attention to her. But Spiritualists rely for these 
things on a very large number of mediums. In fact, 
some of our leading English Spiritualists do not 
believe in Palladino at all, having detected her in 
fraud. We must therefore first examine the evidence 
put before us by Spiritualists. 

We begin with the story of the Fox family in 
America in 1848, which admittedly inaugurated 
modern Spiritualism. Since Spiritualists comme- 
morate, in 1920, the ''seventy-second" anniversary 
of the foundation of their religion, I will surely not 
be accused of wasting time over trivial or irrelevant 
matters in going back to 1848. As, however, this is 
not a history, I must deal with this matter very 

In March, 1848, a Mr. and Mrs. Fox, of Hydesville, 
a very small town of the State of New York, had 
their domestic peace disturbed by mysterious and 
repeated rappings, apparently on their walls and 


floors. Swedenborgians and Shakers had by that 
time familiarized people with the idea of spirit, and 
the neighbours were presently informed that the 
raps took an intelligent form, and replied "Yes" or 
*' No " (by a given number of raps) to questions. The 
Foxes stated that the raps came from the spirit of 
a murdered man, and later they said that they had 
dug and found human bones. These raps were 
clearly associated with the two girls, Margaretta 
(aged fifteen) and Katie or Cathie (aged twelve). A 
third, a married elder sister, named Leah — at that 
time Mrs. Fish, and later Mrs. Underbill — came to 
Hydesville, and, at her return to Rochester, took 
Margaretta with her. Leah herself was presently 
a " medium." The excitement in rural America was 
intense. Mediums sprang up on every side, and the 
Foxes were in such demand that they could soon 
charge a dollar a sitter. The ''spirits," having at 
last discovered a way of communicating with the 
living, rapped out all sorts of messages to the sitters. 
In a few years table-turning, table-tilting, levitation, 
etc., were developed, but the "foundation of the 
religion " was as I have described in 1848. 

Towards the close of 1850 three professors of 
Buffalo University formed the theory that the Fox 
girls were simple frauds, causing the supposed raps 
by cracking their knee joints. At a trial sitting they 
so placed the legs and feet of the girls that no raps 
could be produced. A few months later a relative, 
Mrs. Culver, made a public statement, which was 
published in the New York Herald (April 17, 1851), 
that Margaretta Fox had admitted the fraud to her, 
and had shown her how it was done. Neither of 
these checks had any appreciable effect upon the 


movement. From year to year it found new develop- 
ments, and it is said within three years of its origin 
to have won more than a million adherents in the 
United States, or more than five times as many as it 
has to-day. 

Our Spiritualists may find it possible, in their 
solemn commemoration of 1848, to smile at the 
Buffalo professors and Mrs. Culver, but I have yet to 
meet a representative of theirs who can plausibly 
explain away what happened in 1888. Margaretta 
Fox married Captain Kane, the Arctic explorer, who 
often urged her to expose the fraud, as he believed it 
to be. In 1888 she found courage to do so {New York 
Herald, September 24, 1888). She and Katie, she 
said, had discovered a power of making raps with 
their toe- joints (not knee-joints), and had hoaxed 
Hydesville. Their enterprising elder sister had 
learned their secret, and had organized the very 
profitable business of spirit-rapping. The raps and 
all other phenomena of the Spiritualist movement 
were, Mrs. Kane said, fraud from beginning to end. 
She gave public demonstrations in New York of the 
way it was done ; and in October of the same year 
her younger sister Cathie confirmed the statement, 
and said that Spiritualism was " all humbuggery, 
every bit of it" {Herald, October 10 and 11, 1888). 
They agreed that their sister Leah (Mrs. Underbill), 
the founder of the Spiritualist movement and the 
most prosperous medium of its palmiest days, was 
a monumental liar and a shameless organizer of 
every variety of fraud. That a wealthy Spiritualist 
afterwards induced Cathie to go back on this con- 
fession need not surprise us. 

So much for '' St. Leah " — if she is yet canonized — 


and the foundation of the Spiritualist religion in 
1848. We need say little further about raps. Dr. 
Maxwell, the French lawyer and medical student who 
belongs to the scientific psychic school which I have 
noticed, gives six different fraudulent ways of pro- 
ducing ** spirit-raps." He has studied every variety 
of medium, including girls about the age of the Fox 
girls, and found fraud everywhere. In one case he 
discovered that the raps were fraudulently produced 
by two young men among the sitters ; and the 
normal character of these men was so high that their 
conduct is beyond his power of explanation. He has 
verified by many experiments that loud raps may be 
produced by the knee- and toe- joints, and that even 
slowly gliding the finger or boot along the leg of the 
table (or the cuff, etc.) will, in a strained and darkened 
room, produce the noises. In the dark, of course — 
Dr. Maxwell roundly says that any sitting in total 
darkness is waste of time — cheating is easy. The 
released foot or hand, or a concealed stick, will give 
striking manifestations. Some mediums have elec- 
trical apparatus for the purpose. 

If any Spiritualist is still disposed to attach impor- 
tance to raps, we may at least ask for these manifesta- 
tions under proper conditions. Since spirits can rap 
on floors, or on the medium's chair, let the table be 
abolished. It usually affords a very suspicious shade, 
especially in red light, in the region of the medium. 
Let the medium be plainly isolated, and bound in 
limb and joint, and let us then have these mysterious 
raps. It has not yet been done. 

The same general objection may be premised when 
we approach the subject of levitation and the moving 
of furniture generally. Levitation is a more impres- 


sive word than " lifting," but the inexpert reader may 
take it that the meaning is the same. The '* spirits " 
manifest their presence to the faithful, not by making 
the table or the medium '* light," but by lifting up it 
or him. It is unfortunate that here again the spirits 
seem compelled by their very limited intelligence to 
choose a phenomenon which not only looks rather 
like the pastime of a slightly deranged Hottentot, but 
happens to coincide with just the kind of thing a 
fraudulent medium would be disposed to do in a dim 
light. However, since quite a number of learned men 
believe in these things, let us consider them seriously. 
And, with the courage of honest inquirers, let us 
attack the strongest manifestations of this power first. 
Such are the instances in which the medium himself 
— spirits respect the proprieties and do not treat lady- 
mediums in this way — is lifted from the ground and 
raised even as high as the ceiling. When I say that 
ladies are not treated in this frivolous way, the 
informed reader will gather at once that I decline to 
take serious notice of the once famous levitation of 
Mrs. Guppy. Dr. Russel Wallace was quite convinced 
that this lady was " levitated" on to the table, in the 
dark, and she was no light weight. But we shall be 
excused from examining his statement if we recall 
what the lady claimed in 1871. Heme and Williams, 
both impostors, were giving a stance in Lamb's 
Conduit Street, and their ''spirit-controls" said they 
would ''apport" the weighty Mrs. Guppy. Three 
minutes later, although the doors were locked, and 
her home was three miles away, she was standing on 
the table. She had a wet pen in her hand, and she 
explained tearfully to the innocent sitters that she had 
been snatched by invisible powers from her books and 


taken through the solid walls. People like Russel 
Wallace still believed in Mrs. Guppy, but I assume 
that there is no one to-day who does not see in this 
case a blatant collusion of three rogues to cheat the 
public. 1 assume that the same contempt will be 
meted out to the claim of the Rev. Dr. Monck, who, 
not to be outdone, stated shortly afterwards that he 
had been similarly transported from Bristol to 

Probably the modern reader will be disposed to 
dismiss with equal contempt the claim that Daniel 
Dunglas Home was, in the year 1869, wafted by spirit- 
hands from one window to another, seventy feet above 
the ground, at a house in Victoria Street, But here I 
must ask him to pause. This is one of the classical 
manifestations, one of the foundations of Spiritualism. 
Sir A. C. Do3de says that the evidence here is excellent. 
Sir William Barrett maintains that the story is indis- 
putably true. Sir William Crookes says that " to 
reject the recorded evidence on this subject is to reject 
all human testimony whatever." It is a Spiritualist 

I have shown in the debate with Sir A. C. Doyle 
that this dogma is based on evidence that will not 
stand five minutes' examination. Not one of these 
leading Spiritualists can possibly have examined the 
evidence. No witness even claims to have seen Home 
wafted from window to window. Lord Adare is the 
only survivor of the three supposed witnesses, and, 
when he saw some Press report of my destructive 
criticism in the Debate, he sent to the Weekly Dispatch 
a letter that he had written at the time. He seemed 
to think that this letter afforded new evidence. The 
interested reader will be amused to find that this 


letter is precisely the evidence I had quoted in the 
Debate, for it was published forty years ago. 

No one professes to have seen Home carried from 
window to window. Home told the three men who 
were present that he was going to be wafted, and he 
thus set up a state of very nervous expectation. Sir 
W. Barrett, who tells us that " nothing was said 
beforehand of what they might expect to see," says 
precisely the opposite of the truth. Both Lord 
Crawford and Lord Adare say that they were warned. 
Then Lord Crawford says that he saw the shadow on 
the wall of Home entering the room horizontally ; and 
as the moon, by whose light he professes to have seen 
the shadow, was at the most only three days old, his 
testimony is absolutely worthless. Lord Adare claims 
only that he saw Home, in the dark, ** standing 
upright outside our window."^ In the dark — it was 
an almost moonless December night — one could not, 
as a matter of fact, say very positively whether Home 
was outside or inside ; but, in any case, he acknow- 
ledges that there was a nineteen-inch window-sill 
outside the window, and Home could stand on that. 

So there is not only not a shred of evidence that 
Home went from one window to another, but the 
whole story suggests trickery. Home told them what 
to expect, and he pretended, in the dark, that he was 
a "spirit" whispering this to them. He noisily 
opened the window in the next room. He came into 
their room, from the window-sill, laughing and saying 
(in spite of the historic solemnity of the occasion !) 
that it would be funny if a policeman had seen him 

1 The account which he gives in the Dispatch (March 21, 1920) is 
precisely the same as his account (which I quoted verbatim in the 
Debate) in his Experience of Spiritualism with D.D. Home, pp. 62-3. 


in the air. When Lord Adare went into the next 
room, and politely doubted if Home could have gone 
out by so small an aperture, Home told him to stand 
some distance back, and then swung himself out in a 
jaunty fashion, as a gymnast would. In fine, it is 
well to remember that this was the same D. D. Home 
who had defrauded a widow of ^933,000, and had been, 
in the previous year (1868), branded in a London 
court as a fraud and an adventurer. 

After this we need not linger long over the other 
" levitations " of Home, or allow ourselves to be 
intimidated by the bluster of Sir A. C. Doyle and Sir 
W. Barrett. Sir Arthur tells us that " there are 
altogether on record some fifty or sixty cases of 
levitation on the part of Home " ; that " Professor 
Crookes saw Home levitated twice"; and that *' as 
he floated round the room he wrote his name above 
the pictures." It is a pity that Sir A. C. Doyle does 
not tell people that Home did all these wonderful 
things in the dark, and that in most cases the people 
present merely had Home's word for it that he was 
*' floating round the room." The whole evidence for 
these things has been demolished so effectually by 
Mr. Podmore in his Newer Spiritualism (chs. i and ii) 
that I need say little here. 

No reliable witness, giving us a precise account of 
the circumstances, has ever claimed that he saw Home 
off the ground and clear of all furniture. Sir W. 
Crookes says that he saw Home, in poor light, rise 
six inches for a space of ten seconds. It is a poor 
instalment of miracle ; but I am obliged to add that 
Crookes was at the other side of the room, and he 
confesses that he did not see Home's feet leave the 
ground ! Crookes says that on one occasion he was 


allowed to pass his hands under Home's feet ; but he 
tells this wonderful exploit twenty-three years after 
the event (in 1894), and he does not give precise 
indications where the hands were when he examined 
the feet. Mr. John Jones saw Home rise in 1861 ; 
but he does not say that he saw Home's hands, and 
he admits that his muscles were so taut that he calls 
them " cataleptic." It is equally true that Home 
wrote his name above the pictures ; but no one had 
examined the spots before the seance, and no one 
could see if he stood on anything to reach them 
during the seance, as it was pitch dark. The only 
apparently good case is an occasion when a sitter 
says that, in the dark, he saw Home's figure com- 
l^letely cross the rather lighter space of the window, 
feet first, and then cross it again head first. But it 
happens that on this occasion there are two witnesses, 
and the less rhetorical of the two expressly says that 
the shadow on the blind was at first only " the feet and 
part of the legs," and then (after Home had announced 
that the spirits were turning him round) only " the 
head and face." Any gymnast could do that. The 
whole of these recorded miracles reek with evidence 
of charlatanry. The lights were always put out, and 
Home in nearly all cases said that he was rising, and 
then told them that he was floating about various 
parts of the room. 

Still worse is the evidence for Home's occasional 
" elongation." The picture of Sir W. Crookes gravely 
measuring the height of this brazen impostor, as he 
alternately draws himself in and stretches out, is as 
pathetic as the picture of him standing with a bottle 
of phosphorus in a bedroom at Hackney while two 
girls make a fool of him. It is just as pathetic that 


men like Sir A. C. Doyle and Sir W. Barrett assure 
the public that they believe these things, when they 
have, apparently, not examined the evidence. To 
believe that in the course of a few seconds certain 
spiritual powers, who cannot unravel for us the 
smallest scientific problem, can so alter that mar- 
vellous world of cells and tissues which make up a 
man's body as to make him even six inches taller, is 
to believe in a miracle beside which the dividing of 
the waters of the Red Sea is child's play. Yet distin- 
guished men of science and medical men assure the 
public that they believe this, and believe it on evidence 
that has been riddled over and over again. 

It was a still earlier fraud, Gordon, who began this 
trick of mounting furniture in the dark and saying 
that the spirits bore him up; but the "evidence" is 
not worth glancing at. One might as well ask us to 
examine seriously the evidence for the " elongation " 
of Heme, Peters, Morse, and all the other impostors 
of the time, or for the spiritual transit of Mrs. Guppy 
and Dr. Monck. Let us rather see what sort of 
evidence is furnished in recent times. 

It appears that the spirits no longer levitate the 
mediums themselves. Although the power is said to 
be developing as time goes on, the age of these 
impressive floatings round pitch-dark rooms is over. 
The only instance I have read in the last twenty 
years is that of Ofelia Corrales, of Costa Rica, who 
unfortunately fell off the stool she was standing on. 
We have now to be content with the levitation of tables 
and the dragging of furniture towards the medium. 

Again let us, in order not to waste time, address 
ourselves at once to the classical case of Eusapia 
Palladino. Your common or garden medium, with 


his uncritical audience, has a dozen ways of tilting 
and lifting tables and pulling furniture about the 
room. To press on with the hands or thumbs (with 
four fingers " above the table " to edify the audience) 
and lift with the knees is easy. The same thing can 
be done by pressure against the inside of the legs of 
the table. The foot is still more useful, for the table 
is generally light. A confederate is even more useful. 
The more artistic medium wears a ring with a slot 
in it, and has a strong pin in the table. While his 
hands seem to be spread out above the table, he 
catches the head of the pin in the slot of his ring, 
and — the miracle occurs. Other mediums have 
leather cuffs inside their sleeves, with a dark piece of 
iron or a hook projecting to catch the edge of the table. 

But we will take Palladino, who was examined by 
scores of scientific men, many of whom to this day 
believe that at least a large part of her " phenomena " 
were genuine. The average man hesitates immediately 
when he hears that everybody admits that part of her 
performances were fraudulent. She was a '*grey" 
medium, Sir A. C. Doyle says. But he, and so many 
others, assure you at once that this is quite natural. 
She had real mediumistic powers ; but these decay 
after a time, while the public still clamours for 
miracles, and the poor medium is strongly tempted 
to cheat. I have already said that Sir Arthur is here 
even more inaccurate than he usually is. He says 
that she was "quite honest" for the first fifteen 
years, as any person who studies her record will 
admit. Let us briefly study it. 

Eusapia Palladino was an Italian working girl, an 
orphan, who married a small shopkeeper of Naples. 
She remained throughout life almost entirely illiterate. 


but she came in time to earn ** exorbitant fees" 
(Lombroso's daughter sa.ys) by her seances. She had 
began to dabble in Spiritualism, and lift tables, at the 
age of thirteen, but she did little and was quite 
obscure until 1888, when Professor Chiaia, of Naples, 
took her up. He challenged Lombroso to study her, 
and in 1892 a group of Italian professors investigated 
her powers at Naples. That is the beginning of her 
public career, and her performances varied little. 
She sat with her back to the cabinet — unlike other 
mediums, she sat outside it — and her chief trick was 
to lift off the ground the light table in front of her 
while the professors controlled her hands and feet. 
It was the ghost of *' John King " who did these 
things, she said ; and we remember " John King " as 
a classic ghost of the early fraudulent mediums. He 
rapped on the table and raised it off the floor; he 
dragged furniture towards the medium, especially out 
of the cabinet behind her ; he flung musical instru- 
ments on the table, and prodded and pulled the hair 
of the sitters ; he made impressions of hands and 
faces in plaster ; and he even brought very faint 
ghosts into the room at times. 

Lombroso and other professors regarded these 
things as genuine or due to an abnormal power of 
the medium (not to ghosts). In the end of his life, 
in fact, Lombroso announced that he had come to 
believe in the immortality of the mind, though he 
still regarded this as material. His daughter, Gina 
Ferrero, tells us that at this time he was a physical 
wreck, and his mental vitality was very low.^ How- 
ever, the professors of 1892 said that they did not 

1 Gesare Lombroso (1915), p. 416. Much is suppressed in the 
English translation of his book. 


detect fraud. The reader of their report may think 
otherwise. They put Eusapia, for instance, on a scale, 
and '' John King " took seventeen pounds off her 
weight. Any person can perform that miracle by 
getting his toe to the floor while he is on the weighing 
machine ; and the professors gravely note that, 
whenever they prevented Eusapia' s dress from touch- 
ing the floor, she could not reduce her weight ! They 
note also that she cannot raise the table unless her 
dress is allowed to touch it. 

In the same year, 1892, Flammarion invited her to 
Paris. He says frankly that he caught her cheating 
more than once. One of her miracles was to depress 
the scale of a letter-balance by placing her hands on 
either side of it, at some distance from it. Flam- 
marion found that she used a hair, stretched from hand 
to hand. His colleague, the astronomer Antoniadi, 
who was called in, said that it was " fraud from 
beginning to end." 

In 1894 Professor Richet, assisted by Mr. Myers 
and Sir 0. Lodge, examined her at Richet's house, 
and found no fraud. But Dr. Hodgson insisted that 
she released her hands and feet from control and 
used them, and Myers invited her to Cambridge in 
1895. The result is well known. In great disgust 
they reported that she cheated throughout, and that 
not a single phenomenon could be regarded as 
genuine. This was, on the most generous estimate, 
seven years after the beginning of her public career ; 
and Myers, the most conscientious and respected of 
English Spiritualists, reported that she must have 
had "long practice" in fraud. Yet Sir A. C. Doyle 
tells the public that she was '* quite honest " for the 
first fifteen years. 


Her admirers were angry, and they continued to 
guarantee her genuineness. She became the most 
famous and most prosperous medium in the world. 
In 1897 and 1898 she was again in France, and 
Flammarion detected her in fraud after fraud. She 
released her hands and feet constantly from control. 
From 1905 to 1907 she was rigorously examined by 
the General Psychological Institute of Paris. They 
reported constant trickery and evasion of tests. 
Sitters were not allowed to put a foot on her right 
foot because she had a painful corn on it. One of 
her hands must not be clasped by the control because 
she was acutely sensitive to pain in that hand. She 
will not allow a man to stand near and do nothing 
but watch her. She wriggles and squirms all the 
time, and releases her hands and feet. She learns 
that, in a photograph they have taken of one high 
** levitation " of a stool, it is plainly seen to be resting 
on her head, so she allows no more photographs of 
this. And so on. Professor G. le Bon got her at his 
house for a private sitting in 1906. He was able to 
instal an illumination behind her of which she knew 
nothing, and he plainly caught her releasing and 
using her hand. 

In 1910 the Americans tried her. At one sitting 
Professor Miinsterberg was carefully controlling her 
left foot, as he thought, when the table in the cabinet 
behind her began to move. But one man had 
stealthily crept into the cabinet under cover of the 
dark, and he seized something. Eusapia shrieked — 
it was her left foot ! ^ Then the professors of Columbia 

1 Mr. Hereward Caii-ington, who believes in the genuineness of 
Eusapia's powers, makes light of this. He misses the main point. 
In the minutes of the sitting, which he gives, it is expressly stated by 


University took Eusapia in hand, and finished her. 
They had special apparatus ready for use, but they 
never used it. In a few sittings they discovered that 
she was an habitual cheat, and they abandoned the 
inquiry in disgust. 

These are the main points in Eusapia's official 
record. They suffice to damn her. She cheated from 
the start to the finish. Her moans and groans and 
wriggles habitually enabled her to release her hands 
and feet from the men who were supposed to control 
them. Nothing is more notorious in her career than 
that. She pretended that ''John King" did every- 
thing, yet she used constantly to announce that 
" some very fine phenomena would be seen to-night." 
She pretended to be in a trance, yet she habitually 
called out ''E fatto " C' It's done") when something 
had been accomplished, in the dark, two feet away 
from her. She was alive to every suspicious move- 
ment of the sitters, and controlled the light and the 
photographers. The impressions of faces which she 
got in wax or putty were always her face. I have seen 
many of them. The strong bones of her face impress 
deep. Her nose is relatively flattened by the pressure. 
The hair on the temples is plain. It is outrageous 
for scientific men to think that either *' John King " or 
an abnormal power of the medium made a human face 
(in a few minutes) with bones and muscles and hair, 
and precisely the same bones and muscles and hair as 
those of Eusapia. I have seen dozens of photographs 
of her levitating a table. On not a single one are her 
person and dress entirely clear of the table. In fine, 

the controllers at this point that they have both Euaapia's hands and 
feet secure. So we cannot trust such minutes when they say that the 
control was perfect. 



at every single sitting, from beginning to end, the 
observers were distracted by the "ghost." They 
were prodded and pinched and pushed, and their hair 
and whiskers were pulled. It seems a pity that they 
did not refuse to continue unless "John King" 
desisted from this frivolity. It was Eusapia spoiling 
their vigilance. 

Believers in Eusapia would point to some dozens of 
things in her record that these professors, and even 
conjurers like Carrington, could not explain. I am 
quite content to leave them unexplained. We are 
under no obligation to explain them or else accept 
Spiritualism. There is, as Schiaparelli said, a 
third alternative: agnosticism. If the majority of 
Eusapia' s tricks were at one time or other seen to be 
done by fraud, the presumption is that the rest were 
fraud. There are scientific men who seem to lose 
their common sense in these inquiries. You might 
put a conjurer before them in broad daylight, and 
they will not see how he does a single one of his 
tricks. But when, in a bad light, a lady conjurer or 
medium does something which they cannot explain 
they appeal to abnormal powers or ghosts. It is 
neither science nor common sense. 

Towards the close of Eusapia's career another 
powerful Italian peasant-woman, Lucia Sordi, began 
to interest the professors. She outdid Eusapia in 
some matters. While she sat bound with cords in the 
cabinet, a decanter of wine was lifted from the table, 
and a glass put to the lips of each sitter. She was 
eventually exposed, and I will not linger on her. She 
could get out of any bonds ; and she had two con- 
federates always, in the shape of her young daughters. 

Most recent of all are the phenomena of the 


" Goligher circle " of Belfast. A teacher of mechanics, 
Mr. Crawford, has greatly strengthened the faith by 
recording their wonderful exploits in his Reality of 
Psi/chic Phenomena (1916) and Experiments in 
Psychical Science (1919). Sir A. C. Doyle is enthusi- 
astic about them, as is his wont. Even Sir W. Barrett 
tells us that " it is difficult to believe how the cleverest 
conjurer, with elaborate apparatus, could have per- 
formed " what he witnessed. Decidedly, here is 
something serious. Yet I intend to dismiss it very 
briefly. The "circle" consists of seven members of 
the (Goligher family, and they are all mediums. In 
other words, there were fourteen hands and fourteen 
feet to be watched, in a red light (the worst in the 
world for the eye), and this young teacher of science 
flatters himself that he controlled them all, and 
meantime attended to a lot of scales and other 
apparatus. We are asked to believe this after four or 
five professors repeatedly failed to control the hands 
and feet of one woman (Eusapia). Moreover, they 
were permitted to hold Eusapia's hands and feet, but 
Crawford was not permitted to touch the feet of his 
medium. He gives no photographs, except of his 
superfluous scales and tables. The Goligher family, 
he says, were most anxious to have photographs 
taken, but the " spirits " said it would injure the 

When Sir W. Barrett tells the public that "the 
cleverest conjurer, with elaborate apparatus," could 
not do these things, he talks nonsense of which he 
ought to be ashamed. There is nothing in the two 
books that requires any apparatus at all, or anything 
more than practice. Raps were common. They have 
been since 1848. Mr. Crawford talks of " sledge- 


hammer blows " and " thunderous noises." As the 
mediums were never searched, the raps may have 
been exceptionally loud, but Mr. Crawford naively 
gives one detail which puts us on our guard. He one 
night brought a particularly sensitive phonograph. 
The noises that night were ''terrific," he says. He 
took the record to the offices of Light, and the editor 
of that journal can do no more than say that the 
noises were "clearly audible" (p. 32). So, when 
Mr. Crawford tells us of strong men being unable to 
press down the levitated table, we will take a pinch of 

The " table " (really a light stool) usually lifted 
weighed two pounds. Sir A. C. Doyle assured his 
audience that this was lifted as high as the ceiling. 
On the contrary, Mr. Crawford expressly says that it 
never rose more than four feet ; which is, I find by 
** scientific " experiment, the height to which a young 
lady, sitting on a chair, could raise such a stool on her 
foot. A most remarkable coincidence. It is a further 
remarkable coincidence that the young lady's weight 
increased, when an object was levitated, by just the 
weight of that object, less about two ounces which 
some other person took over (a steadying finger, for 
instance). It is an even more remarkable coincidence 
that, when Mr. Crawford asked for an impression of 
the ghostly machinery which made the raps, the mark 
he got on paper was " something of an oval shape, 
about two square inches in area" (p. 192) ; which is 
singularly like a young lady's heel. Similarly, when 
he asked for an impression in a saucer of putty, the 
mark he describes — and carefully omits to photo- 
graph for us — is precisely the mark of a young lady's 
big toe with a threaded material on it. It is further 


curious that this remarkable psychic power, which can 
lift a ten-pound table, could not lift a ivhite handker- 
chief a fraction of an inch ; which prompts the painful 
reflection that a dark foot might be visible if it touched 
a white handkerchief. 

Mr. Crawford's books are really too naive. He 
asked Kathleen, by way of control experiment, to 
show him if she could raise the stool on her foot ; 
and he asks us to believe that her very obvious 
wriggles and straining prove that this was not the 
usual lifting force. He puts her on a scale, and asks 
the *' ghosts " to take a large amount of matter out 
of her body. He is profoundly impressed when her 
weight decreases by 54J pounds ; and he asks us to 
believe that ghosts have taken 54J pounds of flesh 
and fat out of the fair Kathleen and " laid it on the 
floor." A simpler hypothesis is that she got her toe 
to the floor, as Eusapia did. Mr. Crawford ought to 
leave ghosts for a while, and take a course of human 
anatomy and physiology. His mechanical knowledge 
enables him to sketch a diagram of a "cantilever," 
constructed out of the medium's body, and reaching 
from it to the centre of the table, a distance of 
eighteen inches, or the length of Kathleen's leg from 
knee to foot. But how in the name of all that is 
reasonable this cantilever is worked from the body 
end, without wrenching the young lady's '* innards " 
out of joint, passes the subtlest imagination. The 
"spirits" were consulted as to the way they did it. 
By a final peculiar coincidence it transpired that they 
knew just as much about science as Kathleen Goligher ; 
and that was nothing. 

This is a very long chapter, but the phenomena it 
had to discuss are the most serious in Spiritualist 


literature, and I was eager to omit nothing which is 
deemed important. Let me close it with a short 
account of an historical occurrence, which is at the 
same time a parable. We are often told that the 
medium was "physically incapable" of doing this or 
the other. Here is an interesting illustration of 
human possibilities. 

In 1846 all Paris was busy discussing '' the electric 
girl." Little Angelique Cottin, a village child of 
thirteen summers, a very quiet and guileless-looking 
maid, exuded the "electric fluid" (ghosts were not 
yet in fashion) in such abundance that the furniture 
almost danced about the room. When she rose from 
her chair it flew back, even if a man held it, and was 
often smashed. A heavy dining-table went over at a 
touch from her dress. A chair held by " several 
strong men " was pushed back when she sat on it. 
The Paris Academy of Sciences examined her, and 
could make nothing of her. The chairs she rose 
from were sent crashing against the wall, and broken. 
But one night, when the crowd gathered about her to 
see the marvels, a wicked old sceptic watched her 
closely from a distance. Only that afternoon a heavy 
dining-table, with its load of dishes, had gone over. 
The child saw the sceptic's eye, yet wanted to entertain 
the crowd. There was a struggle of patience between 
sceptic and child for two hours, and at last age won. 
He saw her move, and demanded an examination ; 
and they found the bruise on her leg caused by 
knocking over the heavy table. It was all over. She 
had developed a marvellous way of using the muscles 
of her legs and buttocks instantaneously and imper- 
ceptibly. This was, says Flammarion, " the end of 
this sad story in which so many people had been 


duped by a poor idiot." He is wrong on two points. 
The child was by no means an idiot ; and this was 
only the beginning, not the end. We do well to 
remember what this child of thirteen could do.^ 

Chapter IV 


Before me, as I write, are two spirit photographs 
which have gone at least part of the round of the 
Press, and confirmed the consoling belief in thousands 
of hearts. One is a photograph of Sir Arthur Conan 
Doyle, and behind him, peeping over his shoulder, is 
a strange form which has, he says, " a general but 
not very exact resemblance to my son." The other 
photograph is supplied by the Rev. W. Wynne. It 
bears the ghostly faces of Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone, 
with whom Mr. Wynne had been acquainted ; and 
the text says that the plate was exposed for Mr. and 
Mrs. Wynne and received these ghostly imprints. 
Both these photographs came from ''the Crewe 
Spiritual Circle," which has done so much in recent 
years to strengthen the faith. 

Let me first make a few general remarks on spirit 
photography. Everybody to-day has an elementary 
idea what taking a photograph means. A chemical 
mixture, rich in certain compounds of silver, is spread 

1 Flammarion, Les/orces naturelles inconnues, pp. 299-310. 


as a film over the glass plate which you buy at the 
stores. The rays of light — chiefly the ultra-violet or 
'^ actinic " rays — which come from the sun (or the 
electric lamp) are reflected by a body upon this plate, 
through the lenses of the camera, and form a picture 
of that body by fixing the chemicals on the plate. 
The lens is essential in order to concentrate the rays 
and give an image, instead of a mere flood of light. 
The object which reflects the light — whether it be the 
ordinary light or the actinic rays — must be material. 
Ether does not reflect light, for light is a movement 
of ether. 

Spiritualists have such vague ideas as to what can 
and cannot happen that they overlook these elementary 
details altogether. Sometimes they ask us to believe 
that a medium can get the head of a ghost on a plate, 
without a camera, by merely placing his or her hand 
on the packet containing the plate. Even if there 
were a materialized spirit present, it could make no 
image on the plate unless the rays were properly 
concentrated through lenses. But the whole idea of 
spirits hovering about and making images on photo- 
graphic plates because a man called a medium puts 
his hand on the camera is preposterous. That would 
be magic with a vengeance ! Even if we suppose 
that the spirits have material bodies — ether bodies 
would not do — which reflect only the actinic rays, 
and so are not visible to the eye, the idea remains as 
absurd as ever. To say that the invisible material 
body of Mr. Gladstone (if anybody is inclined to 
believe in such a thing) only reflects the rays into the 
camera at Crewe when Mr. Hope and Mrs. Buxton, 
the mediums, put their hands on the camera, and do 
not reflect light at all unless these mediums touch 


the camera, is to utter an obvious absurdity. The 
ghosts are either material or they are not. 

We must look for a simpler explanation. Now, 
when we examine Sir A. C. Doyle's spirit photograph, 
we find at once that the candour of that earnest and 
conscientious Spiritualist gives us a clue. He tells 
us how he bought the plate, examined the camera, 
and exposed and developed the plate with his own 
hands. *' No hands but mine ever touched the plate," 
he says impressively. We shall see presently that 
that need not impress us in the least. What is 
important is that Sir Arthur adds : " On examining 
with a powerful lens the face of the * extra ' I have 
found such a marking as is produced in newspaper 
process work." Very few of the general public would 
understand the significance of this, but I advise the 
reader to take an illustrated book or journal and 
examine a photograph in it with a lens (which need 
not be powerful). He will see at once that the figure 
consists of a multitude of dots, and wherever you find 
an illustration showing these dots it has been at some 
time printed in a book or paper. During a lantern 
lecture, for instance, jon can tell, by the presence or 
absence of these dots, whether a slide has been repro- 
duced from an illustration or made direct from the 
photographic negative. 

Sir A. C. Doyle is candid, but his Spiritualist zeal 
outruns his reason. He goes on to say : — 

It is very possible that the picture was conveyed 

on to the plate from some existing picture. However 
that may be, it was most certainly supernormal, and 
not due to any manipulation or fraud. 

This is an amazing conclusion. It is not merely 
''possible," but certain, that the photo, which he 


saj^s resembles his son, had been printed somewhere 
before it got on to his plate. The marks are infallible. 
It is further practically certain that, when the son of 
so distinguished a novelist died on active service, his 
photograph would appear in the Press. It is equally 
certain that mediums, knowing well that Sir Arthur 
and Lady Doyle would presently seek to get into 
touch with their dead son, would treasure that photo- 
graph. When I add that, as I will explain presently, 
there is no need at all for the spirit photographer to 
touch the plate, the reader may judge for himself 
how much '' supernormal" there is about the matter. 
Let us glance next at the Gladstone ghost. We 
are not told if it showed process marks, but, of course, 
they need not always be looked for. It might be 
taken direct from a photograph in the case of so well 
known a couple as the Gladstones. But here again 
there is a significant weakness. When you turn the 
photograph upside down, you discover that the photo- 
graphs of Mr. and Mrs. Wynne are on the lower half 
of the plate, and inverted ! You have to come to this 
remarkable conclusion, if you follow the Spiritualist 
theory, that either the highly respectable Mr. and 
Mrs. Wynne or the perfectly puritanical Mr. and Mrs. 
Gladstone were standing on their heads I For my part, 
I decline to believe that Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone have 
taken to such frivolity in the spirit land. I prefer to 
think that the spirit photographer has bungled. 

But how could it be done if the plate was never in 
the hands of the photographer ? In the early days of 
Spiritualism faking was easy. You put on an air of 
piety, and your sitter implicitly trusted you. It was 
then quite easy to make a ghost, as every photo- 
grapher knows. Expose a plate for half the required 


time to a young lady dressed as a ghost, then put the 
plate away in the dark until a sitter comes and give 
it a full exposure with him. He is delighted, when 
the plate is developed, to find a charming lady spirit, 
of ghostly consistency, beaming upon him. Double 
development, or skilful manipulation of the plate in 
the dark room, will give the same result. 

This is how the trick was done in the sixties and 
seventies. A London photographer, Hudson, made 
large sums by this kind of trickery. It was easily 
exposed — any person who has dabbled in photography 
knows it — and often the furniture or carpet behind 
the ghost could be seen through it. 

At last there was a very bad exposure which for a 
time almost suspended the trade. At Paris there was 
a particularly gifted photographer medium named 
Buguet. Not only were his ghosts very artistic, but 
Spiritualists were able to identify their dead relatives 
on the photographs. Buguet came to London and 
did a roaring trade. But early in 1875 the police of 
Paris carried Buguet off to prison and searched his 
premises. They found a headless doll or lay figure, 
and a large variety of heads to fit it. At first Buguet 
had had confederates who used to creep quietly behind 
the sitter and impersonate the ghost. Then he used 
to take a half-exposure photograph of his doll, and so 
dispense with confederates. He had a very smart 
clerk at the door who used, in collecting your twenty 
francs, to get from you a little information about the 
dead relative you wanted to see. Then Buguet rigged 
up and dressed a more or less appropriate doll, gave 
it a half-exposure, and brought the same plate to use 
for his sitter. 

One feature of the trial of Buguet should be care- 


fully borne iu mind. Spiritualists are very fond of 
assuring us that the spirit voice or message or photo- 
graph they obtained from a medium was "perfectly 
recognizable." They scout any suggestion that they 
could be mistaken. Do they not know the features of 
their dead son or daughter or wife ? During the trial 
of Buguet scores of these Spiritualists entered the 
witness-box and swore that they had received exact 
likenesses of their dead relatives. But Buguet, hoping 
to get a lighter sentence, confessed that the same 
group of heads had served every purpose, and the 
witnesses in his favour w^ere all wrong ! ^ 

Buguet got a year in prison, and for a time trade 
was poor. But new methods were invented, and 
spirit photographers are again at work all over the 
world, and have been for decades. In country places 
the old method may still be followed. Generally, 
however, the sitter brings his or her own plate, and 
is then supposed to be secured against fraud. The 
next development was easy enough. A prepared plate 
was substituted for the plate you brought. This trick 
in turn was discovered, and sitters began to make 
secret marks on the plates they brought, in order to 
identify them afterwards. Then the machinery of 
the ghost was rigged up in the camera itself, and you 
might bring your own plate and mark it unmistakably 
with a diamond, if you liked. The ghost appeared on 
it when it was developed. 

There were several ways of doing this. The first 
was to cut out the figure of the ghost in celluloid or 
some other almost transparent material and attach 

1 I might add that Mrs. Gladstone is not at all recognized by her 
own son in Mr. Wynne's photograph. The other figure seems to me 
certainly a reproduction of a photograph or bad picture of Gladstone. 


it to the lens. When this trick leaked out, a very 
tiny figure of the ghost, hidden in the camera, was 
projected through a magnifying glass (a kind of small 
magic-lantern) on to the plate when it was exposed in 
the camera. As time went on, sitters began to insist 
on examining the camera, and these tricks were apt 
to be discovered. I remember an honest and critical 
Spiritualist telling me, about ten years ago, that he 
offered a certain spirit-photographer (who is still at 
work) five pounds for a spirit-photograph, if the 
sitter were permitted to see every step of the process. 
The photographer agreed ; but when my friend 
wanted to examine the camera he at first bluffed, 
and then returned the money, saying that that was 
carrying scepticism too far ! He had the ghost in 
his camera. 

Your modern Spiritualist friend smiles when you 
tell him of these tricks. They are prehistoric. 
To-day you are allowed to examine the camera, bring 
your own plate, expose it and develop it yourself. 
The logic of the Spiritualist is here just as defective 
as ever. Because he has not on this occasion dis- 
covered certain forms of trickery which are now well 
known, he concludes that there was no trickery. 
As if trickery did not evolve like anything else ! 
Spiritualists were just as certain twenty years ago 
that there was no possibility of fraud because they 
brought their own marked plates ; but they were 
cheated every time. 

There are still several ways of making the ghost. 
Where the sitter is careless, or an enthusiastic 
Spiritualist, the old tricks (substitution of plates, etc.) 
are used ; but there are new tricks to meet the critical. 
The ghost may be painted in sulphate of quinine or 


other chemicals on the ground-glass screen. Such 
a figure is invisible when it is dry. There may be 
a trick dark- slide, with a plate which will appear in 
front of yours. If the photographer develops it for 
you, he can skilfully get a ghost on it by holding 
another plate against yours (pretending to see how it 
is developing) in the yellow light. If you develop 
it yourself, you use his dish, which is often an 
ingenious mechanism. It has glass sides or a glass 
bottom, and, while the whole thing is covered up 
during development, secret lights impress the ghost 
on it. An actual case of this sort was exposed in 
Pearson's Weekly on January 31, 1920. 

When the Spiritualist airily assures us that he has 
guarded against all these things (some of which 
could not be seen at all) we have to remember that 
Spiritualist literature teems with cases in which, we 
are told, '* all precautions against fraud were taken," 
yet sooner or later the fraud is discovered. But the 
possibilities are not yet exhausted. I once saw a 
remarkable photograph which Sir Robert Ball had 
taken of the famous old ship, the Great Eastern. 
Along the side of it, in enormous letters, was the 
name ** Lewis"; yet this name was totally invisible 
to the naked eye when one looked at the ship. A 
coat of paint had been put over the name — the ship 
had been used by Lewis's as an advertisement — and 
concealed it from the eye, yet the sensitive plate 
registered it. No scrutiny of the camera or the 
studio or the dark room would reveal conjuring of 
that sort. In fine, there is the possibility of some 
compound of radium, or radio-paint, being used at 
one or other stage in the process. 

No sensible man will pay serious attention to 


spirit photographs until one is taken in these con- 
ditions ; neither plates nor any single part of the 
apparatus shall belong to or be touched by the 
medium. The spirit photographer shall be brought 
to an unknown studio, and shall not be allowed to do 
more than, under the eye of an expert observer, lay 
his hand, at a sufficient distance from the lens, on 
the outside of a camera which does not belong to 
him. That has not been done yet. Until it is done 
fraud is certainly not excluded ; and any man who 
uses the medium's own premises and apparatus is 
courting deception. 

That the ghost on a photograph often resembles 
a dead relative of the sitter will surprise no sensible 
person. It is well known that mediums collect such 
photographs, as well as information about the dead. 
Mr. Carrington describes in his Physical Phenomena 
of Spiritualism the elaborate system they have. They 
have considerable knowledge of likely sitters in their 
own town. In fact, I have clearly enough traced in 
some cases that they j^rs^ gathered information about 
a man, and then got an intermediary to persuade him 
to visit them. He, of course, tells everybody after- 
wards that the medium "could not possibly" know 
anything about him. Sometimes a Spiritualist takes 
the precaution of going to a spirit photographer in 
a distant town. If he is quite able to conceal his 
identity, he will get nothing, or only a common or 
garden ghost. But he makes an appointment for 
a sitting in a few days to try again, and gives his 
name and address ; and the next mail takes a letter 
to a medium in his town asking for information and 
photographs. As I have previously said, when the 
Berlin police arrested Frau Abend and her husband 


they found an encj^clopaedic mass of information 
about possible sitters. 

A case, with which I may conclude this section, is 
given by Dr. Tuckelt in his Evidence for the Super- 
natural (pp. 52-3). Mr. Stead was once delighted to 
find the ghost of a " brother Boer " on a photograph, 
and the clairvoyant photographer mystically informed 
him that he ''got" the name " Piet Botha," and 
gathered that he had been shot in the Boer War. 
Mr. Stead was jubilant, and the Materialist was 
nowhere, when he learned that Piet Botha had been 
shot in the war. Who in England knew anything 
about Piet Botha and his death? But the wicked 
sceptic got to work, and he presently discovered that 
on November 9, 1899, the Graphic had reproduced 
a photograph of Piet Botha, who had been shot in the 
war ! A magnificent case fell completely to pieces. 

Spirit-drawings and paintings have drawn out just 
the same ingenuity on the part of the mediums. A 
favourite and impressive form is to let the sitter 
choose a blank card and see that it is blank. Then 
the medium tears off the corner and hands it to the 
sitter, so that he will recognize his own card at the 
close. The lights are completely extinguished, the 
card is laid on the table, and when the gas is re-lit a 
very fair picture (still wet) in oil is found to have been 
painted on the card. David Duguid persuaded 
thousands of people of this marvel in the later 
decades of the nineteenth century. It was represented 
that he was merely a cabinet-maker who, in 1866, 
came under the control of the spirits of certain Dutch 
painters, and was used by them. I learned long ago 
in Scotland that the statement that he had never 
practised drawing or painting was untrue. It is, in 


any case, probable that he had torn the corners off the 
little paintings he had prepared in advance, and that 
it was tJiese corners which he palmed off on the sitter. 
In the dark he substituted his painting for the blank 
card, and the corner naturally fitted. The fact that 
the paint was '' still wet " need impress nobody. A 
touch of varnish easily gives that impression. 

Innumerable tricks have been invented by American 
mediums for fooling the Spiritualist public in this 
respect, and in many cases it taxes the ingenuity of an 
expert conjurer to find out where the fraud lay. 
Mr. Carrington gives a long series of frauds which he 
has at one time or other studied. One medium offers 
you an apparently blank sheet of paper, and, although 
nothing more suspicious than laying it under an 
innocent-looking blotting-pad can be seen, and there 
is certainly no substitution, a photograph appears on 
it while you wait. If you happen to be one of those 
people whom the medium had had in mind as a 
possible sitter, or whom he (through an intermediary) 
induced to come to him, it may be a photograph of 
your dead son. The photograph was there, invisible, 
all the time. It had been taken on a special paper 
(solio paper), and bleached out with bi-chloride of 
mercury. The blotting-pad was wet with a solution 
of hypo, and this suffices to restore the photograph. 

In other cases the medium, with solemn air, enters 
his cabinet and draws the curtain. There is a 
fantastic theory in the Spiritualist world that this 
cabinet, or cloth-covered frame (like a Punch and 
Judy show), prevents the " fluid " or force which the 
medium generates from spreading about the room and 
being wasted. Nearly all these convenient theories 
and regulations come from the spirits through the 



mediums ; that is to say, are imposed by the mediums 
themselves. The closed cabinet, like charity, covers 
a multitude of sins. In the case of the spirit-painting 
it may have a trap-door or other outlet, through which 
the medium hands the blank canvas to a confederate 
and receives the previously painted picture. 

Another medium shows you a blank canvas, and, 
almost without taking it out of your sight, produces an 
elegant, and still wet, oil painting on it. The painting 
was there from the start, of course, but a blank canvas 
was lightly gummed over it, and all the conjuring the 
medium had to do was to strip off this blank canvas 
while your attention was diverted. Mediums know 
that their sitters are profoundly impressed if the paint 
is " still wet." I have heard Spiritualists stubbornly 
maintain that this proves that the painting had only 
just been done, and done by spirit-power, since no 
man could do it in so short a time. It is a good 
illustration of the ease with which they are duped. 
The picture may have been painted a week or a month 
before. Rub it with a little poppy oil and you have 
" wet paint." 

Mr. Csivnngton' s Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism^ 
one of the richest manuals of mediumistic trickery, 
has a number of these picture-frauds. A painting is, 
when thoroughly dry, covered with a solution of water 
and zinc-white. It is then invisible, and you have 
** a blank canvas." The picture comes out again by 
merely washing it with a sponge. In other cases a 
painting is done in certain chemicals which will 
remain invisible until a weak solution of tincture of 
iron is applied ; and it may be applied to the back of 
the canvas. The medium, Carrington suggests, begs 
the sitters to sing '' Nearer, my God, to Thee," to 


drown the noise, while his confederate creeps behind 
the canvas and sprays it with the solution. The 
picture dawns before their astonished eyes. 

Perhaps the best illustration is one that Carrington 
gives in his Personal ExperienceSy to which I must 
send the reader for the full story. Two spinster- 
mediums of Chicago had a great and profitable reputa- 
tion for spirit-painted photographs. I take it that 
their general air of ancient virtue and piety disarmed 
sitters, who are apt to think that q> fraudulent medium 
will betray himself or herself by criminal features. 
You took a photograph of your dead friend, and asked 
that the spirits might reproduce it in oils. The 
medium studied it, and made an appointment with you 
at a later date. Perhaps the medium then studied it 
again, and made a further appointment. On the 
solemn day the medium held a blank canvas up to the 
window before your eyes, and gradually, first as a dim 
dawn of colours, then as a precise figure, the picture 
appeared on the canvas. Carrington suggests that 
she held up to the window two canvases — a thin 
blank canvas a few inches in front of the prepared 
picture. By deftly and slowly bringing these together 
with her fingers she brought about the illusion ; and 
only a little ordinary sleight of hand was required to 
get rid of the blank canvas. 

These illustrations will suffice to show the reader 
what subtle and artful trickery is used in this 
department of Spiritualism. He will know what to 
think when a Spiritualist friend, who could not detect 
the simplest conjuring trick, shows him a spirit- 
photograph and says that he took care there was no 
fraud. The ordinary members of the Spiritualist 
movement are as honest as any, but their eagerness — 


natural as it is — puts them in a frame of mind which 
is quite unreasonable. The trickery of this class of 
mediums has been developing for nearly sixty years, 
and it has to find new forms every few years as the 
older forms are exposed. The mediums have become 
expert conjurers and even, in some cases, expert 
chemists — or they have expert chemists in collusion 
with them — and it is simply foolish for an ordinary 
person to think that he can judge if there has been 
fraud. We must have at least one elementary safe- 
guard. No part of the apparatus employed must 
belong to the medium or be manipulated by him ; 
and the photograph must not be taken on his 
premises. Every Spiritualist who approves a photo- 
graph taken under other conditions is courting 
deception and encouraging fraud. 

And instead of finding even the leading Spiritualists 
setting an example of caution in face of the recognized 
mass of fraud in their movement, we find them 
exhibiting a bewildering hastiness and lack of critical 
faculty. Most readers will remember how Sir A. C. 
Doyle sent to the Daily Mail on December 16, 1919, 
a photograph of a picture of Christ which had, he 
said, been *' done in a few hours by a lady who has 
no power of artistic expression when in her normal 
condition." The picture was, he said, *' a master- 
piece " ; so wonderful, in fact, that ** a great painter 
in Paris " (not named, of course) ** fell instantly upon 
his knees" before such a painting. It was "a 
supreme example" of a Spiritualist miracle. The 
sequel is pretty well known. On December 31 the 
artist's husband wrote a letter to the Daily Mail, of 
which I need quote only one sentence : — 

Mrs. Spencer wishes definitely to state once and for 


all that her pictures are painted in a perfectly normal 
manner, that she is disgusted at having " ps5xhic 
power " attributed to her, and that she does not 
cherish any ludicrous and mawkish sentiments about 
helping humanity by her paintings. 

Chapter V 


Spiritualism began in 1848 with the humble and 
entirely fraudulent phenomena of raps. Within 
three years there were hundreds of mediums in the 
United States, and a dollar per sitter was the custo- 
mary fee for assisting at one of the services of the 
new religion. It soon became widely known that 
raps could be produced by very earthly means, and 
in any case the rivalry of mediums was bound to 
develop new ''phenomena." As in all other pro- 
fessions, originality paid ; and as the wonderful 
discovery was quickly made that darkness favoured 
the intensity and variety of the phenomena, the 
spirit power began to break upon humanity in a 
bewildering variety of forms. In this chapter we 
will examine a number of these accomplishments 
which our departed fellows have learned on the 
Elysian fields. 

D. D. Home is still the classical exponent of some 
of these accomplishments. Indeed, there is one of 
his phenomena which no medium of our time has the 
courage to reproduce, and, since this phenomenon is 


expressly endorsed by Sir William Barrett in his 
recent work, On the Threshold of the Unseen (1917), 
we shall be accused of timidity and unfairness if we 
omit to consider it. It is said that on several well- 
authenticated occasions — so Sir W. Barrett assures 
the public — Home took burning coals in his hands, 
thrust his hands into the blazing fire, or even put his 
face among the live coals. What is the evidence 
which Sir W. Barrett, knowing that the general public 
has no leisure to investigate these things, endorses as 
satisfactory ? 

The reader who has patience enough to consider 
these extraordinary claims in detail will find the 
evidence collected and examined in Mr. Podmore's 
Neiver Spiritualism (chapters i and ii). It is just as 
weak and unsatisfactory as the evidence for Home's 
levitations, which we have already examined. The 
first witness is a lady, Mrs. Hall, who had the 
advantage of a profound belief that Home could do 
anything whatever, and that the idea of fraud was 
worse than preposterous in connection with so holy 
a man. Home's demure expression and constant 
utterances of piety and virtue, which seem to Mr. 
Podmore '* inconceivably nauseous," made a deep 
impression on Mrs. Hall and the other ladies whom 
Home used generally to have next to him when he 
■was performing his wonders. Now, this lady tells 
us that on July 5, 1869, he took a large live coal from 
the fire, put it on her husband's head, and drew his 
white hair over it. He left it there for four or five 
minutes, and then gave it to Mrs. Hall to hold. She says 
that it was *' still red in parts," but she was not burned. 

It would follow that Home was so charged with 
supernatural power that he could communicate a large 


measure of it to Mr. Hall's head or Mrs. Hall's hands 
— a feat unique in the history of Spiritualism. We 
need not go so far. There is nothing in Mrs. Hall's 
narrative to prevent us from supposing that Home 
put some non-conducting substance on her husband's 
head hefore he put the coal on it. Any person can 
pick a live coal out of the fire if a part of it (as is 
common) is not alive. Some can go further. I can 
stick my finger-tips in my live pipe without being 
burned. Some smokers can pick up a small live 
coal and light their pipes with it. Probably all the 
coals which Daniel picked from the fire were " dead " 
in parts. It is clear that this particular coal was not 
glowing, as Mrs. Hall states that her husband's white 
hair showed ** silvery " against it. If the coal had 
glowed, the hair would show hlach against it. Prob- 
ably Home lifted up the hair round, and not on, it ; 
and after five minutes part of it would be cool enough 
to lay on Mrs. Hall's hand. 

Sir William Crookes is the next witness : a great 
scientist, but — we cannot forget it — the man who was 
easily duped by a girl of seventeen. He says that he 
accompanied Home to the fire, and saw him put his 
hands in it. That is anything but the scientific way 
to give evidence. We want an exact description of 
the state of the fire, the light, etc. But notice this 
next sentence: *'He very deliberately pulled the 
lumps of hot coal oft', one at a time, with his right 
hand, and touched one which was bright red." So 
the " lumps " among which he had put his hands 
were not bright red ; and we are left free to suppose 
that the one which he touched was not bright red all 
over. Home then took out a handkerchief, waved it 
about in the air, and folded it on his hand. He next 


took out a coal which was *' red in one part " and laid 
it on the handkerchief without burning it. The story 
smacks of charlatanry from beginning to end. 
Crookes ought at least to have known better than to 
suppose that a handkerchief ''gathered power" by 
being waved about. It more probably gathered a 
piece of asbestos from Home's pocket. 

The other pretty stories of Home's fire-tricks may 
be read in Podmore. Juggling with fire is an ancient 
practice. It is very common among savages. Daniel 
Home, with his select and private audience, had 
excellent conditions for doing it. In bad light he did 
even more wonderful things than those I have quoted ; 
that is to say, if we take the record literally, which 
we may decline to do. Crookes, like some other 
investigating professors, was short-sighted. No 
wonder that Daniel loved him. 

Let us pass on to the musical accomplishments of 
the spirits ; and here again the gifted Daniel was one 
of the pioneer mediums. He induced the spirits to 
play an accordion while he hold it with one hand ; 
and his hand held it by the end farthest removed from 
the keys. Unfortunately, the spirits laid down the 
condition that he must hold it out of sight, underneath 
the table, and our interest is damped. We know 
something from other mediums of the ways of doing 
this. While you are putting the accordion under the 
table you change your hand from the back end to the 
key end of the accordion. Then you can get the 
bellows to play by pushing it against something or 
using a hook at the end of a strong thread or catgut. 
It is well to remember that Home was a good musician. 
Possibly he played a mouth-organ while the professor 
was looking intently at the accordion. 


But Home was put to a severe test, we are told. 
Sir W. Crookes made a cage (like a waste-paper 
basket) to go under the table, and Home was told to 
let the accordion hang in this. He could certainly 
not now use his second hand or his feet, yet it 
*' played." But, as Mr. Podmore, most ingenious of 
critics, points out, no one saw the keys move. The 
music may have come from a musical box in Home's 
pocket, or placed by him on the floor. The degree of 
light or darkness is not stated. The opening and 
shutting of the accordion could be done by hooks, or 
loops of black silk. So with the crowning miracle, 
when Home withdrew his hand, and the accordion 
was seen suspended in the air, moving about in the 
cage (under the dark table). It was probably hooked 
on to the table. 

Before we pass on to other ghostly musicians, let us 
notice another feat of Home's which Sir William 
Crookes records here. He placed a board with one 
end on the table and the other on a spring balance. 
It was so shaped (with feet at each end) that an 
enormous pressure would have to be exerted on it at 
the table-end if the balance were to be appreciably 
altered. Yet a light touch of Home's fingers caused 
the scale to register six pounds. Podmore points out 
that this experiment had been gradually reached. 
Home knew the conditions, and had made his prepara- 
tions. The light was poor, and a loop of strong silk 
thread at the far end of the board, pulled from some 
part of his person, would not be noticed. We shall 
see far more remarkable feats than this. 

A pretty variation of musical mediumship was next 
introduced by Mrs. Annie Eva Fay, another American 
fraud with whom Sir W. Crookes made solemn 


scientific experiments. Florrie Cook was a chicken 
in comparison with Annie Fay, and she triumphantly 
passed all the professor's tests. She came to London 
in 1874, and everybody soon went to see and hear the 
** fascinating American blonde " at the Hanover 
Square Eooms. 

Mrs. Fay's most characteristic seance was when she 
sat in the middle of a circle of sitters, a bell and a 
guitar beside her. Her husband, " Colonel " Fay, 
was in the circle, but, as they held each other's hands, 
it was presumed that he could do nothing to help her 
if he wished. Mrs. Fay then began to clap her hands. 
The lights were extinguished, and, although Mrs. Fay 
continued to clap her hands loudly, so that you could 
be sure she was not using them, the bell was rung, 
the tambourine played, the sitters' beards were pulled, 
and so on. This was easy. When the gas was put 
out, Mrs. Fay no longer slapped her left hand against 
her right, but against her forehead or cheek — perhaps 
slapped the Colonel's face for a variation — and had 
the right hand free for business. No doubt the 
Colonel also released a hand, as we have seen Eusapia 
Palladino do, and joined the band. 

When this trick was realized, Mrs. Fay used to allow 
herself to be bound with tapes to a stake erected on 
the stage. A few minutes after the lights were put 
out the band began its ghostly, but not very impres- 
sive, music. Sometimes a pail was put beside her, 
and it was raised by invisible hands (in the dark) on 
to her head. When the light was restored Mrs. Fay 
was discovered still bound to the stake, the knots and 
seals intact. By an accident at one of her per- 
formances Mr. Podmore was enabled to see how she 
did it, and the secret has long been known. The 


tapes supplied had to be fastened in such a way that 
she could with great speed slip them up her slender 
arms and get into a working position. Maskelyne 
also exposed her, and trade fell off so badly that she 
made him an offer, by letter, to go on his stage and, 
for payment, show how all the tricks were done. She 
had by that time converted hundreds to Spiritualism. 
There were various other forms of the musical 
performance. One medium used to sit in sight of the 
audience with a sitter holding his hands. A cloth was 
then put over them both, from the neck downward, 
the lights extinguished, and the usual band began. 
He had released one hand, by the familiar trick, and 
reached behind him for the instruments. 

The medium, Bastian, also played instruments in 
the dark. At Arnheim, where he was edifying the 
Dutch Spiritualists, he was suspected, and it was 
arranged to ignite some inflammable cotton by an 
electric current from the next room. The next time 
a ghostly hand played the guitar above the heads of 
the sitters, the signal was given, and the flash lit the 
room. The guitar fell hastily to the table, and 
Bastian's hand retreated rapidly to its right place. 
His English Spiritualist admirers accepted his 
explanation that it was a '* materialized " hand that 
was seen shrinking back into his body. One medium 
strummed his guitar with a long pencil which he took 
with his teeth out of his inner coat-pocket and held 
with his teeth. Others had telescopic rods or "lazy 
tongs" hidden about them, and used these in the 

The binding of mediums with cords or tapes is a 
** precaution against fraud" which was thoroughly 
exposed fifty years ago. Many of Sir A. C. Doyle's 


own admirers were pained when he announced to the 
world his belief in the genuineness of the performance 
of two Welsh colliers, the Thomas brothers. Their 
** manifestations " were prehistoric. More than fifty 
years ago spectators were invited to tie up the 
mediums, and as long ago as 1883 Mr. Maskelyne 
was exhibiting the trick. The Davenport brothers, 
the latest American marvels, had toured England. 
Most people will remember how they were held up at 
Liverpool by some one tying the rope in knots with 
which they were not familiar. The spirits failed 
entirely to play the tambourine when the tying-up 
was properly done, and the instrument was put out 
of reach of the medium's mouth. As usual, it had 
been said for months that fraud was ''absolutely 

Later mediums found the solution of this difficulty. 
The medium kept a sharp knife-blade within reach of 
his teeth, and, when knots proved too stubborn, he 
cut the rope and freed himself. He had a spare rope 
in his clothes and fastened himself — or was bound by 
a confederate— before the lights went up. People 
thought that they could prevent this by sealing the 
knots. It was useless. The medium had chewing 
gum of the same colour as sealing-wax, and the seals 
were imitated with this. These desperate shifts are, 
however, rarely necessary. While he is being tied 
the medium catches a loop of the rope with his 
thumb, and this gives him plenty of slack to use. 
I have seen a medium laced tight into a leather 
arm-case, and get out behind the curtain in three 
minutes. He had caught a loop of the lace with his 
thumb, and the rest was tooth work. 

It was therefore little wonder that when the Thomas 


brothers were brought from the valleys of South Wales 
to London their ancient miracles would not work. A 
recent convert to Spiritualism, Mr. S. A. Moseley, 
describes their work on their native heath (or hearth) 
with the same awe and simplicity as Sir A. C. 
Doyle had done. Many of us knew the history of 
Spiritualism, and smiled. They were brought to 
London by the Daily Express in 1919, and here, 
where sceptics abounded and the need of convincing 
evidence was at its most acute, " White Eagle " (the 
Ked Indian spirit who controls Will Thomas) and all 
his band of merry men were powerless. Will Thomas 
was properly bound, the tambourine and castanets 
were put out of reach, and his brother was isolated. 
All that happened — the throwing of a badge-button 
and a pair of braces to the audience — is within the 
range of possibilities of the human mouth. 

Let us now turn to another bright and classical 
page in the history of Spiritualism : the experiments 
of Professor Zollner with the medium Slade. Sir 
A. C. Doyle granted in the Debate, with an air of 
generosity, that Slade ** cheated occasionally," but 
he insisted that Slade's phenomena in the house of 
Professor Zollner were genuine. Now, as long as Sir 
A. C. Doyle does this kind of thing, as long as he 
assures his readers that he will not build on any 
medium who has been convicted of fraud and then 
builds on such a medium, as long as he tells his 
readers (who will not check the facts) that a medium 
who was exposed over and over again merely ** cheated 
occasionally," it is no use for him to assert that he is 
trying to purge Spiritualism of fraud. Slade was a 
C3mical impostor from beginning to end of his career. 
I will show in the next chapter but one how Slade 


confessed his habitual fraud as early as 1872, how he 
was exposed and arrested in London in 1876, and 
how he was exposed again in Canada in 1882 and in 
the United States in 1884. A word about the last 
occasion will suffice for my purpose here. Henry 
Seybert, a Spiritualist, left a large sum of money to 
the University of Pennsylvania on the condition that 
the University authorities would appoint a commission 
to examine into (among other things) the claims of 
Spiritualism. They did ; and it was the most unlucky 
inspiration the ghosts of the dead ever conveyed. 
Very few mediums would face the professors, and 
those who did were shown to be all frauds. Slade 
was one of these, and the Pennsylvania professors, 
wondering how any trained man could be taken in 
by so palpable a fraud, sent a representative to 
Leipsic to investigate the experiences of Professor 
Zollner and the three other German professors who 
had endorsed Slade. The gist of his report was that 
of the four professors one (Zollner) was in an early 
stage of insanity (he died shortly afterwards), one 
(Fechner) was nearly blind, the third (Weber) was 
seventy-four years old, and the fourth (Scheibner) 
was very short-sighted, yet did Jiot (as Sir A. C. 
Doyle says) entirely endorse the phenomena ! 

I have not been able to discover evidence that 
Zollner's mind was really deranged, but he certainly 
approached the inquiry with a theory of a fourth 
dimension of space, and was most eager to get his 
theory confirmed by the experiments. The key to 
the whole situation is, therefore, lack of sharp control. 
Slade had been conjuring for years, and was an 
expert in substitution. He had a purblind audience, 
and he astutely guided the professor until the con- 


ditions of the experiment suited him. He knew 
beforehand, as a rule, what apparatus ZoUner would 
use, and he duplicated his wooden rings, thongs, etc. 
An excellent study of his tricks in detail will be found 
in Carrington's Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism. 
Sir A. C. Doyle speaks of the shattering of a screen 
in Slade's presence as an indisputably superhuman 
feat. But before the stance no one had thought of 
looking to see if the screen had been taken to pieces 
and lightly tied together by a black thread which Slade 
could pull asunder at will ! 

Slade was a very bad selection by Sir A. C. Doyle. 
No prominent medium was ever so frequently exposed 
as he. In addition to the exposures I have mentioned, 
Dr. Hyslop, Mrs. Sidgwick, and other leading Spiritu- 
alists riddled his pretensions to supernormal power. 
In the end he took to drink and died in an asylum. 
Yet Sir A. C. Doyle assures his followers, in his 
Vital Message, that he never builds on a discredited 

Let us turn now to Stainton Moses, the snow- 
white medium. Moses was a neuropathic clergyman 
who in 1872 left the Church and became a teacher. 
About the same time he discovered mediumistic 
powers. He died ultimately of Bright's disease, 
brought on by drink. His audience, as I said before, 
consisted only of a few intimate friends who never 
doubted his saintliness or thought for a moment of 
fraud. He worked always in the dark, or in a very 
bad light ; and his doings are mainly described by 
his trustful friend and host, Mrs. Speer. This would 
dispense any serious student from troubling about his 
phenomena ; but let us see if they throw any light on 
his character. Mr. Carrington says that the things 


reported are unbelievable, yet that we cannot think 
of fraud in connection with Moses. Podmore also 
tries hard not to accuse him of conscious fraud, and 
hints that he was irresponsible. The reader may 
choose to think otherwise. 

The spirits performed every variety of phenomena 
through Stainton Moses. Like Home, and only 
a few of the quite holiest mediums, he was occa- 
sionally lifted off the ground ; or, which is, of course, 
the same thing, he said that he was. Raps were 
common when he was about. Automatic writing of 
the most elevating (and most inaccurate) description 
flowed from his pencil. Lights floated about the 
room ; and once or twice he dropped and broke 
a bottle of phosphorus in the dark. Musical sounds 
were repeatedly heard, as in the case of the Rev. Dr. 
Monck, who had a little musical box in his trousers. 
The sitters were sprayed with scent. The objects on 
the dressing-table in his room were arranged by 
invisible hands in the form of a cross. Wonderful 
messages about recently deceased persons were sent 
through him ; and the details could later be found in 
the papers. In fine, he was a remarkably good 
medium for '' aj^ports " — that is to say, the bringing 
into the circle by the spirits of flowers and other 
objects. Statuettes, jewels, books, and all kinds of 
things (provided they were in the house and could be 
secreted about the person) were " apported." 

The evidence for these things is particularly poor, 
but I am a liberal man. I do not doubt them. Each 
one of them, separately, was done by other mediums. 
It is the rich variety that characterizes Moses. Let 
him sleep in peace. The credulity and admiration of 
his friends seem to have made him lose the last 


particle of sense of honour in these matters. These 
things are common elementary conjuring from begin- 
ning to end. 

Apports are a familiar ghostly accomplishment, 
and the way they are done is familiar. Mme. 
Blavatsky was wonderful at apports. Who would 
ever dream of proposing to search Mme. Blavatsky ? 
And who would now be so simple as to think of 
spirits when the medium was not searched ? The 
person of Mme. Blavatsky was as sacred from such 
search as the person of the Bev. Stainton Moses or 
of the charming and guileless Florrie Cook. Indeed, 
it is only in recent times that a real search of the 
medium has been demanded, and the accounts of 
weird and wonderful objects *' apported " under other 
conditions merit only a smile. Mrs. Guppy, secured 
from search by her virtue and the esteem of Dr. Russel 
Wallace, went so far as to apport live eels. Eusapia 
Palladino one day " apported " a branch of azaleas in 
Flammarion's house; and he afterwards found an 
azalea plant, which it exactly fitted, in her bedroom. 
Another day her spirits showered marguerites on the 
table ; and the marguerites were missed from a pot 
in the corridor. Anna Rothe, the Princess Karadja's 
pet medium, was secretly watched, and was caught 
bringing bouquets from her petticoats and oranges 
out of her ample bosom ; and the spirits did not save 
her from a year in gaol. She had a whole flower-shop 
under her skirts when she was seized. 

But we will not run over the whole silly chronicle 
of "apports." Two recent instances will suffice. 
One is the Turin lady, Linda Gazerra, of whom I 
have spoken on an earlier page. She was too virtuous 
to strip, and let down her hair, even in the presence 



of a lady. So Dr. Imoda, a scientific man who con- 
sented to accept her on these terms, was fooled for 
three years (1908-11). She had live birds caged in 
the large mass of her hair (natural and artificial), and 
all sorts of things in her lingerie. 

About the same time, an Australian medium, 
Bailey, made a sensational name throughout the 
Spiritualist world by his " apports." The spirits 
brought silks from the Indies (until the brutal 
customs official claimed the tariff), live birds, and all 
sorts of things. He was taken so seriously in the 
Spiritualist world that Professor Reichel, a rich 
French inquirer, brought him to France for investi- 
gation. Sure enough, although he was searched, the 
spirits brought into the room two little birds "from 
India." But his long hesitations and evasions had 
aroused suspicion, and on inquiry it was proved that 
he had bought the birds, which were quite French, at 
a local shop in Grenoble. How had he smuggled them 
into the room ? I give the answer (as it is given by 
Count Rochas, his host) with reluctance, but it is 
absolutely necessary to know these things if you want 
to understand some of the more difficult mediumistic 
performances. The birds were concealed in the 
unpleasant end of his alimentary canal. Professor 
Reichel gave him his return fare and urged him to 
go quickly ; and the Australian Spiritualists received 
him with open arms, and listened sympathetically to 
his stories of French brutality. 

Of "apports," therefore, we say the same as of 
"materializations." The medium shall be stripped 
naked, have all his or her body-openings muzzled, be 
sewn in prepared garments, and placed in a prepared 
and carefully searched room. When Spiritualists 


announce the appearance of an eel or a pigeon or 
a bouquet, or even a copy of Light, under those 
conditions, we will begin to consider the question of 

Luminous phenomena " are easily simulated," says 
Dr. Maxwell. Most people will agree to this candid 
verdict of so experienced and so sympathetic an 
investigator. Tons of phosphorus have been used 
in the service of religion since 1848. It has taken 
the place of incense. The saintly Moses twice had 
a nasty mess with his bottle of phosphorus. Heme 
was one night tracing a pious message in 'luminous 
characters (with a damp match) when there was a 
crackle and flash ; the match had ** struck." The 
movement abounds in incidents which are, in a 
double sense, ''luminous." 

Certain sulphides may be used instead of phos- 
phorus, and in modern times electricity is an excellent 
means of producing lights at a distance. Chemicals 
of the pyrotechnic sort are also useful. One must 
remember that behind the thousands of mediums, 
whose fertile brains are constantly elaborating new 
methods of evading control, are manufacturers and 
scientific experts who supply them with chemicals 
and apparatus. One often hears Spiritualists laugh 
at this suggestion as a wild theory of their opponents. 
Any impartial person will acknowledge that it is more 
probable than improbable. But positive proof has 
been given over and over again. 

Quite recently Mr. Sidney Hamilton described in 
Pearson's Weekly (February 28, 1920) an ''illustrated 
printed catalogue of forty pages " which he had with 
great difficulty secured. It was the secret catalogue 
of a firm which supplies apparatus to mediums. The 


outfit includes *'a self -playing guitar," a telescopic 
aluminium trumpet (for direct voice), magic tables, 
luminous objects, and even *' a fully materialized 

female form (with face that convinces) floats 

about the room and disappears Price J610." For 

eight shillings this firm supplies the secret how to 
turn one's vest inside out, without changing coat, 
while one is bound, and the knots sealed, in the 
cabinet. For two pounds ten you get an apparatus 
which will levitate a table so effectively that " two or 
three persons cannot hold the table down." In short, 
there is, and has been for decades, a trade supply of 
apparatus and instructions for producing the whole 
range of "physical phenomena," and any person who 
pays serious attention to such things is not very 
particular whether he is deceived or not. 

I may close the chapter with a case of spirit 
sculpture, which is recorded by Truesdell in his 
Bottom Facts of Sjnritualism. By this trick, he says, 
Mrs. Mary Hardy converted one of those professors 
whose names adorn the Spiritualist list. A pail of 
warm water, with several inches of paraffin floating 
on its surface, was weighed and put under the table. 
After a time a hand moulded most accurately in wax 
was found on the floor beside the pail, and it was 
found that the weight of the contents of the pail 
had decreased by precisely the weight of the hand. 
A convincing test, surely ! But the professor had 
forgotten to allow for the evaporation of the warm 
water. The hand had been made in advance, by 
moulding the soft paraffin on the medium's hand, 
and hidden under Mrs. Hardy's skirt. It was trans- 
ferred by her toes to the floor under the table. 

Chapter VI 


Spiritualists distinguish between physical pheno- 
mena and psychic phenomena. The use of this 
distinction is obvious. When a man reads some such 
history of the movement as Podmore's, and then the 
works of Truesdell, Robinson, Maskelyne, Carrington, 
and others who have time after time exposed the ways 
of mediums, he is very ill-disposed to listen to stories 
of materialization, levitation, spirit photographs, spirit 
messages, spirit music, spirit voices, or anything of 
the kind. He knows that each single trick has been 
exposed over and over again. So the liberal Spiritu- 
alist urges him to leave out '* physical" phenomena 
and concentrate on the '' psychic." It is a word with 
an aroma of refinement, spirituality, even intellect. 
It indicates the sort of thing that respectable spirits 
ought to do. So we will turn to the psychic pheno- 
menon of clairvoyance. 

Here at once the reader's resolution to approach 
the subject gravely is disturbed by the recollection of 
a recent event. Many a reader would, quite apart 
from the question of consolation, like to find some- 
thing true in Spiritualism. He may feel, as Professor 
William James did, that the mass of fraud is so 
appalling that, for the credit of humanity, we should 
like to think that it is the citizens of another world, 
not of ours, who are responsible. He may feel that, 
if it is all fraud, a number of quite distinguished 



people occupy a very painful position in modern 
times. He would like to find at least something 
serious ; something that is reasonably capable of a 
Spiritualist interpretation. But as soon as he 
approaches any class of phenomena some startling 
instance of fraud rises in his memory and tries to 
prejudice him. In this case it is the ** Masked 

A recent case in the law courts has brought this 
to mind. In 1919, when the Sunday Express was 
making its grave search for ghosts, in order to rebuke 
the materialism of our age, it offered £500 for a 
materialization. A gentleman, who (with an eye on 
the police) genially waived the money offer aside, 
offered to bring an unknown lady and present a 
materialization, and some startling feats of clair- 
voyance in addition. A sitting was arranged, and 
the lady, who wore a mask, gave a clairvoyant 
demonstration that could not be surpassed in all 
the annals of Spiritualism. Her ghost was rather 
a failure ; though Lady Glenconnor, who has the 
true Spiritualist temperament, recognized in it an 
"initial stage of materialization." But the clair- 
voyance was great. The sitters, while the lady was 
still out of the room, put various objects connected 
with the dead (a ring, a stud, a sealed letter, etc.) in 
a bag. The bag was closed, and was put inside a 
box ; and the lady, who was then introduced, described 
every object with marvellous accuracy. Sir A. C. 
Doyle said that the medium gave ''a clear proof of 
clairvoyance." Mr. Gow said that he saw *' no 
normal explanation." 

And it was fraud from beginning to end, as every- 
body now knows. Clairvoyance must be distinguished 


from prophecy, which Spiritualists sometimes claim. 
Prediction means the art of seeing things which do 
not exist, and it is therefore not even mentioned in 
this hook. Clairvoyance means the art of seeing 
things through a brick wall (or any other opaque 
covering). Now this was an admirable piece of clair- 
voyance. Even Spiritualists present were suspicious, 
because the lady was quite unknown. Yet they could 
not see any suggestion of fraud or any *' normal 
explanation." Did they turn back upon their earlier 
experiences of clairvoyance, when the fraud was con- 
fessed, and ask if those also may not have been 
due to trickery? Not in the least. Everything is 
genuine until it is found out — and, sometimes, even 

Mr. Selbit, the conjurer who really conducted the 
performance, is naturally unwilling to give away his 
secret. He acknowledged immediately after the 
performance, as Mr. Moseley describes in his Amazing 
Seance, that he had fooled the audience. The masked 
lady was an actress with no more abnormal power 
than Sir Oliver Lodge has. Mr. Stuart Cumberland 
suggested at the time that, when the assistant went 
to the door to call the medium, he handed the box to 
a confederate and received a dummy box. He thought 
that the medium would then have time to study and 
memorize the contents of the real box (including a 
sealed letter in dog- German) before she entered the 
room. From the account, which is not precise 
enough, I can hardly see how she would have time for 
this. But Mr. Selbit acknowledged that a dummy 
box was substituted. He says that a person entered 
the room in the dark, took the box from the table and 
substituted a dummy, and afterwards impersonated 


the ghost. This is most important for us. The room 
had been searched, and such acute observers as 
Mr. Stuart Cumberland and Superintendent Thomas, 
of Scotland Yard, were on the watch ; yet a con- 
federate got into the room. After this an ordinary 
Spiritualist stance is child's play. A long and minute 
description of the objects in the bag, which must have 
been spelled letter by letter in parts, on account of 
the difficult wording of the sealed letter, was in some 
way telegraphed or communicated to the girl under 
the eyes of this watchful group. It would be scarcely 
more marvellous to suppose that Mr. Selbit, after 
studying the contents of the box, took her place before 
their faces and they never knew it ! 

The reader will not fail to see why I have minutely 
pointed out the features of this recent case. It is, in 
the first place, an example of "psychic," not 
" physical," phenomena ; and it was conjuring pure 
and simple. It was, further, " most successful and 
convincing," as Sir A. C. Doyle pronounced ; yet there 
was not a particle of abnormal power about it. 
Finally, it was done in the presence of three keen 
critics, as well as of leading Spiritualists ; yet the 
fraud was not discovered. To invoke the "super- 
normal," after this, the moment some ordinary 
individual fails to detect fraud, is surely ludicrous. 

Now let me put another warning before the reader. 
It is notorious that Spiritualists are particularly, even 
if innocently, apt to mislead in their accounts of their 
experiences. Unless the experience is recorded on 
paper at once, it is almost worthless ; and even then 
it is often quite wrong. There is such a thing as 
** selection " in the human mind. When two people, 
a Spiritualist and a sceptic, see or read the same 


thing, their minds may get quite a different impres- 
sion of it. The mind of the Spiritualist leaps to the 
features of it which seem to be supernormal, and slurs 
or ignores or soon forgets the others. The mind of 
the sceptic does the opposite. You thus get quite 
inaccurate accounts from Spiritualists, though they 
are often quite innocent. One once asked me to 
explain how a medium, two hundred miles from his 
home, in a place where no one knew him, could tell his 
name and a good deal about him. By two minutes' 
cross-examination I got him to admit that he had 
been working for some weeks in this district and was 
known to a few fellow-workers. No doubt one of these 
had given a medium information about him, and then 
induced him to visit her. These indirect methods are 
very effective. 

A very good example is Sir A. C. Doyle himself. 
In the debate with me he made statement after state- 
ment of the most inaccurate description. He said that 
Eusapia Palladino was quite honest in the first fifteen 
years of her mediumship ; that he had given me the 
names of forty Spiritualist professors ; that the Fox 
sisters were at first honest ; that I did not give the 
evidence from his books correctly ; that Mr. Lethem 
got certain detailed information the first time he 
consulted a medium ; that in Mme. Bisson's book you 
can see ectoplasm pouring from the medium's " nose, 
eyes, ears, and skin "; that Florrie Cook *' never took 
one penny of money "; that in the Belfast experiment 
the table rose to the ceiling ; and so on. His frame 
of mind was extraordinary. But I will give a far more 
extraordinary case which will make the reader very 
cautious about Spiritualist testimony. 

About forty years ago, when the old type of ghost 


story was not yet quite dead, Myers and Gurney, 
who were collecting anecdotes of this sort, received a 
particularly authentic specimen. It was a personal 
experience of Sir Edmund Hornby, a retired Judge 
from Shanghai. A few years earlier, he said, he had 
one night written out his judgment for the following 
day, but the reporter failed to call for a copy. He 
went to bed, and some time after one o'clock he was 
awakened by the reporter, who very solemnly asked 
him for the copy. With much grumbling Sir Edmund 
got up and gave him the copy. He remembered that 
in returning to bed he had awakened Lady Hornby. 
And the next morning, on going to court, he learned 
that the reporter had died just at that hour, of heart 
disease (as the inquest afterwards found), and had 
never left the house. He had been visited by the 
reporter's spirit. 

Here was an experience of most exceptional weight. 
Who could doubt either the word or the competence 
of the Chief Judge of the Supreme Consular Court of 
China and Japan ? The story was promptly written 
up in the Nineteenth Century (" Visible Apparitions," 
July, 1884), and sceptics were confounded. But 
a copy of the Nineteenth Century reached Shanghai, 
where the incident was said to have taken place, and 
in the same monthly for November there appeared 
a letter from Mr. Balfour, editor of the North China 
Herald and the Supreme Court and Consular Gazette. 
It proved, and Sir E. Hornby was compelled to admit, 
that the story was entirely untrue. It was a jumble 
of inaccuracies. The reporter had died between eight 
and nine in the morning, not at one, and had slept 
peacefully all night. There had been no inquest. 
There was no judgment whatever delivered by 


Sir E. Hornby that morning. There was not even a 
Lady Hornby in existence at the time ! Sir Edmund 
Hornby sullenly acknowledged the truth of all this, 
and could mutter only that he could not understand 
his own mistake. 

After this awful example we think twice before we 
take the testimony of Spiritualists at its face value. 
Sir A. C. Doyle, in particular, is especially guilty of 
such confusions, to the great advantage of his stories. 
During the Debate, as I said, he told of a wonderful 
Glasgow clairvoyante, who was consulted by a Mr. 
Lethem (a Glasgow J.P.), who had lost a son in the 
War. She at once told Mr. Lethem, Sir Arthur says, 
his son's name, the name of the London station at 
which he had said farewell, and the name of the 
London hotel at which they had stayed. This 
sounded very impressive indeed. But I happened to 
have read Mr. Lethem' s articles {Weekly Record, 
February 21 and 28, 1920), and I have them before 
me. Mr. Lethem was a well-known man in Glasgow, 
and was known to be '' inquiring." Now it was eight 
months after his son's death that he met this clair- 
voyante, yet all she could tell him was his son's name 
and appearance. It was, he confesses, ** not much" 
and " not strictly evidential." It was at a later sitting 
that she gave the other details. Sir A. C. Doyle has 
fused the two sittings together and made the expe- 
rience more impressive. The medium had time to 
make inquiries. There is a further detail which 
Sir A. C. Doyle does not tell. The brother of the 
dead officer asked, as a test question, the name of the 
town where they had last dined together. It took 
*' more than a year " to get an answer to this ! 

Thus a quite commonplace and easily explained 


feat of a medium is dressed up by Sir A. C. Doyle as 
supernormal. He does this repeatedly in his books. 
In the Neio Revelation he says, quoting Sir Oliver 
Lodge's Raymond, that a medium described to Sir 
Oliver a photograph of his son, *' no copy of which 
had reached England, and which proved to be exactly 
as he described it." Here he has done the same as 
in the case of Mr. Lethem— fused together several 
successive sittings. The first medium consulted by 
Sir Oliver Lodge made only a very brief statement. 
It was wrong in three out of four particulars ; and 
the fourth was a very safe guess (that Raymond had 
once been photographed in a group). The particulars 
which so much impressed Sir 0. Lodge were given 
much later, and by a lady medium ; and by that time 
there were plenty of copies of the photograph in 
England ! Sir 0. Lodge gives the various dates. 

Sir William Barrett and Sir 0. Lodge are just as 
slipshod. I have amply shown this in the case of 
Lodge in my Religion of Sir 0. Lodge (and Raymond 
is even worse than the books I analysed), and Sir W. F. 
Barrett's On the Threshold of the Unseen is just as 
bad. I have previously said how he tells his readers 
that it would take " the cleverest conjurer with 
elaborate apparatus " to do what the Golighers do 
at Belfast ; and I showed that one limb of one 
member of the circle of seven mediums would, with 
the help of a finger or two perhaps, explain every- 
thing. Sir William also says (p. 53) that the London 
Dialectical Society " published the report of a special 
committee" strongly in favour of Spiritualism. On 
the contrary, the London Dialectical Society expressly 
refused to publish that egregious document. He 
says (p. 72), in describing the Home levitation case, 


that "nothing was said beforehand ' Df what they 
might expect to see," and ** the accounts given by 
each [witness] are alike." These statements are the 
reverse of the truth. The book contains many such 

Here is another, which is expressly concerned with 
the greatest of all *' clairvoyantes," Mrs. Piper, and 
the most critical Spiritualist of modern times. Dr. 
Hodgson. Li the Debate Sir A. C. Doyle introduces 
him (p. 21) as '' Professor Hodgson, the greatest 
detective who ever put his mind to this subject." 
He is fond of turning the people he quotes into 
"professors." It makes them more weighty. Hodgson 
was never a professor, but he was an able man, 
and he exposed more than one fraud like Eusapia 
Palladino. But I have been permitted to see a letter 
which puts Dr. Hodgson himself in the category of 
over-zealous and unreliable witnesses ; and as this 
letter is to be published in the form of a preface to 
the second edition of Dr. C. Mercier's book on 
Spiritualism, I am not quoting an anonymous 

Mrs. Piper, the great American clairvoyante, the 
medium whose performances are endorsed as genuine 
even by men who regard Spiritualism as ninety-eight 
per cent, fraud, began her career as a "psychic" in 
1874. At first she was controlled, in the common 
Spiritualist way, by "an Indian girl." Then the great 
spirits of Bach and Longfellow and other illustrious 
dead began to control her. Next a deceased French 
doctor, "Phinuit," took her in hand, and she did 
wonderful things. But when people who were really 
critical began to test Phinuit's knowledge of medicine, 
and inquire (for the purpose of verification) about 


Phinuit s formei' address on earth, he hedged and 
shuffled, and then retired into obscurity, like the 
Indian girl and Longfellow. Her next spirit was 
*'Pelham," a young man who modestly desired 
to remain anonymous. For four years ''George 
Pelham," a highly cultivated spirit, gave "marvel- 
lously accurate" messages through Mrs. Piper, and 
the world was assured that there was not the 
slightest doubt about his identity. He was a very 
cultivated young American who had '* passed over " 
in 1892. 

Mr. Podmore, who, in spite of his high critical 
faculty, was taken in by this episode, thinks that 
telepathy alone can explain the wonderful things done. 
He does not believe in ghosts. Mrs. Piper's *' sub- 
conscious self," he thinks, creates and impersonates 
these spirit beings, and draws the information 
telepathically from the sitters. But he says that 
the impersonation was so " dramatically true to life," 
so " consistently and dramatically sustained," that 
" some of G. P.'s most intimate friends were convinced 
that they were actually in communication with the 
deceased G. P."^ It is true that when the dead G. P. 
was asked about a society he had helped to form in 
his youth he could give neither its aim nor its name, 
and Podmore admits that Mrs. Piper hedged very 
badly in trying to cover up her failure. But on other 
occasions the hits were so good that we have, if we do 
not admit the ghost theory, to take refuge in telepathy 
and the subconscious self. 

There is no need even for this thin shade of 
mysticism. Podmore was misled by Hodgson's 

1 The Newer Spiritualism, p. 180. 


account. " G. P." meant, as everybody knew, George 
Pellew. Now a cousin of Pellew's wrote to Mr. Clodd 
to tell him that, if he cared to ask the family, he 
would learn that all the relatives of the dead man 
regarded Mrs. Piper's impersonation of him as 
" beneath contempt." Mr. Clodd wrote to Professor 
Pellew, George's brother, and found that this was the 
case. The family had been pestered for fifteen years 
with reports of the proceedings and requests to 
authenticate them and join the S. P. B. They said 
that they knew George, and they could not believe 
that, when freed from the burden of the flesh, he 
would .talk such *' utter drivel and inanity." As to 
" intimate friends," one of these was Professor 
Fiske, who had been described by Dr. Hodgson as 
'* absolutely convinced " of the identity of '* G. P." 
When Professor Pellew told Professor Fiske of this, 
he replied, roundly, that it was " a lie." Mrs. Piper 
had, he said, been '* silent or entirely wrong " on all 
his test questions. -"^ 

I am, you see, not choosing ** weak spots," as Sir 
A. C. Doyle said, and am not quite so ignorant of 
psychic matters, in comparison with himself, as he 
represented {Debate, p. 51). I am taking the greatest 
" clairvoyante " in the history of the movement, and 
in precisely those respects in which she was endorsed 
by Dr. Hodgson and the American S. P. R. and Sir 
0. Lodge and all the leading English Spiritualists. 
She failed at every crucial test. Phinuit, who knew 
so much, could not give a plausible account of his own 

^ Mr. Clodd, as will be read in the preface to the second edition of 
Dr. Mercier's book, sent a copy of this letter to Light. The editor 
declined to publish it. So Sir A. C. Doyle may justly plead that 
he knew nothing about it. Will he ask why ? 


life on earth, or how he came to forget medicine. 
When Sir 0. Lodge presented to Mrs. Piper a sealed 
envelope containing a number of letters of the 
alphabet, she could not read one of them, and 
declined to try again. She could not answer simple 
tests about Pellew. She gave Professor James 
messages from Gurney after his death (1888), and 
James pronounced them *' tiresome twaddle." When 
Myers died in 1901 and left a sealed envelope 
containing a message, she could not get a word of it. 
When Hodgson died in 1905 and left a large amount 
of manuscript in cipher, she could not get the least 
clue to it. When friends put test questions to the 
spirit of Hodgson about his early life in Australia, the 
answers were all wrong. 

Mrs. Piper fished habitually and obviously for 
information from her sitters. She got at names by 
childishly repeating them with different letters (a very 
common trick of mediums), and often changed them. 
She made the ghost of Sir Walter Scott talk the most 
arrant nonsense about the sun and planets. She was 
completely baffled when a message was given to her 
in Latin, though she was supposed to be speaking in 
the name of the spirit of the learned Myers, and it 
took her three months to get the meaning (out of a 
dictionary ?) of one or two easy words of it. She gave 
a man a long account of an uncle whom he had never 
had ; and it turned out that this information was in 
the Encydopcedia, and related to another man of the 
same name. In no instance did she ever give details 
that it was impossible for her to learn in a normal 
way, and it is for her admirers to prove that she did 
not learn them in a normal way, and, on the other 
hand, to give a more plausible explanation of what 


Dr. Maxwell, their great authority, calls her ** inac- 
curacies and falsehoods." 

The truth is that the phenomenon known as 
" clairvoyance " rests just as plainly on trickery as the 
physical phenomena we have studied. Margaretta 
Fox explained decades ago how they used to watch 
minutely the faces of sitters and find their way by 
changes of expression. "I see a young man," says 
the medium dreamily, with half-closed but very 
watchful eyes. There is no response on the face of 
the sitter. "I see the form of a young woman— a 
child," the medium goes on. At the right shot the 
sitter's face lights up with joy and eagerness, and the 
j&shing goes on. Probably in the end, or after a time, 
the sitter will tell people how the clairvoyant saw the 
form of her darling child " at once." 

In some cases the medium is prepared in advance. 
Carrington tells us that he was one day strongly urged 
to give a man, who thought that he had abnormal 
powers, a sitting. He decided at least to give him a 
lesson, and made an appointment. The man came 
with friends at the appointed hour, and they were 
astonished and awed when Carrington, as a clair- 
voyant, told them their names and other details. He 
had simply sent a man to track his visitor to his hotel 
and learn all about him and his friends. Other cases 
are just as easy. When Sir 0. Lodge and Sir A. C. 
Doyle lost their sons, the whole mediumistic world 
knew it and was ready. But mediums gather informa- 
tion about far less important sitters, because it is 
precisely these cases that are most impressive. It is 
quite easy to get information quietly about a certain 
man's dead relatives, and then find an intermediary 
who will casually recommend him to see Mrs. . 


I do not suggest that the intermediary knows the plot, 
though that may often be the case. 

In other cases the medium tells very little at the 
first visit. The ''spirit" is dazed in its new 
surroundings. It takes time to get adjusted and 
learn how to talk through a medium. And so on. 
You go again, and the details increase, l^ou have, 
of course, left your name and address in making a 
fresh appointment. Some clever people go anony- 
mously. Lady Lodge went thus and heard remarkable 
things ; but Sir 0. Lodge admits that her companion 
greatly helped the medium by forgetting herself and 
addressing her as ''Lady Lodge." You may leave 
your coat in the hall, and it is searched. When 
Truesdell consulted Slade in New York, he wickedly 
left in his overcoat pocket a letter which gave the 
impression that his name was " Samuel Johnson." 
The first ghost that turned up was, of course, "Mary 

Still more ingenious was the " clairvoyance " of the 
famous American medium Foster, one of the impostors 
who duped Robert Dale Owen and for years held a 
high position in the movement. While he was out of 
the room you wrote on bits of paper the names of 
your dead relatives or friends, and you then screwed 
up the bits of paper into pellets. Foster then came 
in, and sat near you. He dreamily took the pellets 
in his hand, pressed them against his forehead, and 
then let them fall again upon the table. Slowly and 
gradually, as he puffed at his everlasting cigar, the 
spirits communicated all the names to him. 

Such tricks can be fathomed only by an expert, 
and they ought to warn Spiritualists of the folly of 
thinking that " fraud was excluded." Truesdell, the 


great medium hunter, the terror of the American 
Spiritualist world in the seventies, had a sitting with 
Foster and paid the usual five dollars. He was 
puzzled, and consented to come again. On the second 
occasion Foster could tell him, clairvoyantly, the name 
of his hotel and other details. He had had Truesdell 
watched in the usual way. At last the detective got 
his clue. Foster's cigar was continually going out, 
and in constantly re-lighting it he sheltered the 
match in the hollow of his hands. Truesdell con- 
cluded that he was then reading the slips of paper, 
and the rest was easy. In pressing the pellets to his 
forehead Foster substituted blank pellets for them 
and kept the written papers in his hand. So the 
next time Truesdell went, and Foster had touched 
one of the six pellets and read it, Truesdell snatched 
up the other five pellets and found them blank. 
Foster genially acknowledged that it was conjuring, 
but he continued as a priest of the Spiritualist 
movement for a long time afterwards. 

Another clairvoyant feat is to read the contents of 
a sealed envelope, provided the contents are not a 
folded letter. We shall see in the next chapter how 
the contents of a folded and sealed letter are learned. 
I speak here of the simple clairvoyant practice of 
taking a sealed envelope which contains only a strip 
of written paper, pressing it to the forehead and 
reading the contents. You need not pay half-a-guinea 
to a Bond Street clairvoyante for this. Sponge your 
envelope with alcohol (which will soon evaporate and 
leave no trace) and you can ** see through it." 

Some readers may expect me to say a word here 
about '* clairaudience." The only word I feel disposed 
to say is that it is one of the worst pieces of nonsense 


in the movement. Clairvoyance means to read the 
contents of a sealed letter, or to see spirits which 
ordinary mortals cannot see. It is half the stock-in- 
trade of the ordinary medium. You pay your guinea 
or half-guinea, and the gifted lady sees your invisible 
dead friends and describes them. Sometimes she is 
quite accurate, " on information received." Generally 
the performance is a tedious medley of guesses and 
grotesque inaccuracies. As is known, Mr. Labouchere 
quite safely promised a thousand-pound note to any 
clairvoyante who would see the number of it through 
a sealed envelope. The French Academy of Science 
had invited clairvoyants, and thoroughly discredited 
the claim, years before. 

Yet the imposture goes on daily, all over England 
and America, and some now offer the novelty of 
*' clairaudience," or hearing spirit voices which we 
ordinary mortals cannot hear. It is the same fraud 
under another name. When some clairaudient comes 
along who can hear the spirits of Myers, and so 
many other deceased Spiritualists answer the crucial 
questions they have never yet answered, we may 
become interested. Until then a new addition to 
this world of cranks, frauds, decadents, and nervous 
invalids is not a matter of much importance. 

Chapter YII 


Clairvoyance, strictly speaking, is supposed to be an 
abnormal power of the medium : a range of vision, 
a fineness of sense, that we less gifted beings do not 
possess. But the performance is very apt to resolve 
itself into a claim that the medium sees invisible 
spirits and is communicating with them. Of real 
clairvoyance — of a power to read a closed book or a 
folded paper or see a distant spot — no instance has 
ever yet been recorded that will pass scrutiny. 
Many scientific men, as I said, who do not believe 
in spirits do believe in the abnormal powers of 
mediums. They would like to get a proof of clair- 
voyance, but they are unable to offer us one. The 
wonderful stories told of the gift in Spiritualist 
circles vanish, like the stories about Home and 
Moses, the moment the critical lamp is turned upon 

We are therefore reduced to the Spiritualist claim 
that a medium really receives information from spirits, 
and we have to see on what sort of evidence this is 
based. Now there is an aspect of this question which 
even the leading Spiritualists do not face very 
candidly. More than twenty years ago it was felt, 
and rightly felt, by Spiritualists that at least a long 
step forward would be made if they left sealed or 
cipher-messages at death, and communicated the 
contents or the key of these from ''beyond." It is 
well known how Myers left with Sir Oliver Lodge 



a sealed message of this description. A month after 
his death he " got into touch " with Lodge through 
the medium Mrs. Thompson. Unhappily he had 
forgotten all about the message, and even about the 
Society for Psychical Research ! Next the supremely 
gifted Mrs. Yerrall got into touch with Myers. By 
this time — it was the end of 1904 — Myers had had 
time to get adjusted, and was talking more or less 
rationally through Mrs. Verrall. If there had not 
been a very material test in reserve, Sir 0. Lodge 
and his friends would have sworn that the messages 
were from the spirit of Myers. As it was, they were 
so confident that on December 13, 1904, they solemnly 
opened the precious envelope. They w^ere struck 
dumb when there was not the least correspondence 
between Mrs. Verrall's message from Myers and the 
message he had left in the envelope. 

Miss Dallas tries, in her Mors Janua Vitce^ to 
soften the blow, but her pleas are useless. The final 
failure utterly stultifies all the days and months of 
supposed messages. And this is not the only case. 
Hodgson had adopted a similar test, and it was a 
ghastly failure. Other Spiritualists left sealed 
messages when they died, and not a syllable of one 
of them has been read. Our Spiritualists do not 
get into communication with the dead. This is 
negative evidence, but it is far more impressive than 
any of the rhetorical and inaccurate accounts of 
experiences which they give us. It is precise and 
unmistakable. Every Spiritualist who dies now 
knows that this is the supremely desired test, yet we 
have twenty years of complete, unmitigated failure. 
Men like Sir 0. Lodge tell us that they recognize the 
personality of Hodgson beyond mistake in the messages 


they get through mediums ; but the one sure test, 
the getting of the key to the cipher-messages which 
Hodgson left behind, is an absolute failure. It would 
become our Spiritualists to strike a more modest 
note, and not assure the ignorant public, as Sir A. C. 
Doyle does, that the time for proof has gone by and 
it is for their opponents now to justify themselves. 
The experience of the last twenty years has been 
deadly to Spiritualist pretensions. 

The truth is that here again Spiritualists had been 
led into their belief, that messages from the spirit- 
world were easy and common, by a vast amount of 
mediumistic trickery. The earliest method was by 
raps, and we have seen that since 1848 this perfor- 
mance has been a matter of trickery. The next way 
was to rap out messages with a leg of the table, which 
was merely a variation of the table-lifting we have 
studied. These forms are so often used by amateur 
mediums that it is necessary to recall our warning 
that the distinction between paid and unpaid mediums 
is not of the least use. Carrington, Maxwell, Pod- 
more, and Flammarion give numbers of instances of 
cheating by men and women of good social position. 
Carrington tells of an American lawyer who 
deliberately — not as a joke — made his friends believe 
that he could make a poker stand upright and do 
similar abnormal phenomena. He did his tricks by 
means of black threads. Podmore gives a similar 
case in England. Flammarion tells us of a Parisian 
doctor's wife who cheated flagrantly in order to get 
credit for abnormal powers. This sort of prestige 
has as much fascination for some people as money 
has for others. 

The professional mediums, however, early developed 


in America the trick of receiving messages from 
spirits on slates, and this is fraud from beginning to 
end. The supreme artist in this field was Henry 
Slade, whom Sir A. C. Doyle regards as a genuine 
intermediary between the lofty spirits of the other 
world and ourselves. As Truesdell's account of the 
way in which he unmasked Slade as early as 1872 
contains one of the richest stories in the whole 
collection of Spiritualist anecdotes, one would have 
thought that a story-teller like Sir A. C. Doyle could 
not possibly have forgotten it. From it we learn 
that Slade was from the outset of his career an 
adroit and brazen and confessed impostor. 

Truesdell paid the customary five dollars, and 
received pretty and edifying, but inconclusive, messages 
from the spirits. Incidentally he detected that the 
spirit-touches on his arms were done by Slade's foot, 
to distract his attention ; but he could not see the 
method of the slate-trick. However, as the main 
theme of the messages was an exhortation to persevere 
in his inquiries (at five dollars a sitting to the medium), 
he made another appointment. It was on this occa- 
sion that he left a misleading letter in his overcoat 
in Slade's hall, and found the spirits assuming that 
he was ** Samuel Johnson, Rome, N.Y." But before 
Slade entered the room, or while Slade was going 
through his overcoat-pockets, he rapidly overhauled 
Slade's room. He found a slate with a pious message 
from the spirits already written on it, signed (as was 
usual) by the spirit of Slade's dead wife, Alcinda. 
Beneath the message Truesdell wrote " Henry, look 
out for this fellow — he is up to snuft'! Alcinda," and 
replaced the slate. Slade came in, and gave a most 
dramatic performance. In his contortions, under the 


spirit-influence, he drew the table near to the hidden 
slate, and " accidentally " knocked the clean slate off 
the table. Of course, he picked up the prepared slate. 
His emotions can be imagined when he read the 
words which Truesdell had written on it. After a 
little bluster, however, he laughingly acknowledged 
that he was a mere conjurer, and he told Truesdell 
many tricks of his profession.^ 

This was in 1872. Four years later Slade came to 
London, where Sir E. Ray Lankester and Sir Bryan 
Donkin again exposed him. Sir E. Ray Lankester 
snatched the slate before the message was supposed 
to be written on it, and the message was already 
there. He prosecuted Slade, who was sentenced to 
three months' hard labour. He had charged a guinea 
a sitter. But a few words had been omitted from 
the antiquated form of the charge (which I have 
previously given in the case of Craddock), and before 
Slade could be again prosecuted he fled to the 
continent. There, we saw, he duped a group of 
purblind professors, and he returned to America in 
higher repute than ever. In 1882 an inspector of 
police at Belleville, in Canada, snatched the slate 
just as Sir E. Ray Lankester had done, and exposed 
him again. He escaped arrest only by a maudlin 
appeal for mercy; and on his return to the States 
he succeeded in persuading the Spiritualists — who 
solemnly stated this in their organ, the Banner of 
Light — that the man exposed at Belleville was an 
impostor making use of his name ! In 1884 he faced 
the Seybert Committee, and its sharp-eyed members 

1 The chapter should be read in Trnesdell's racy book, which is now 
unfortunately rare, Bottom Facts Concerning the Science of Spiritu- 
alism (1883), pp. 276-307. 


saw and exposed every step in his trickery. Even- 
tually, as I have said, he lived in drink and misery, 
developed Bright's disease, and died in the common 
asylum. Such was the man whom Sir A. C. Doyle 
seriously regards as the chosen instrument of his 
spiritual powers. 

The Seybert Committee found two different kinds 
of writing on Slade's slates. Some messages were 
short and badly written, and they concluded that 
these were written by him with one finger while he 
held the slate under the table (as the custom was) 
to receive a spirit-message. Other messages were 
relatively long, well written, and dignified ; and they 
regarded these as prepared in advance. Both points 
were fully verified. At one sitting they noticed two 
slates resting suspiciously against the leg of the 
table. These doubtless had messages written on 
them, and were to be substituted for the blank slate 
when this was supposed to be put under the table. 
Slade would then produce the sound of the spirits 
writing by scraping with his nail on the edge of the 
slate. On this occasion, however, Slade saw that 
they had their eyes on the slates and he dare not 
use them. But one of the members of the committee, 
determined to do his work thoroughly, carelessly 
knocked the two slates over with his foot, and the 
messages were exposed. 

The reception of messages from the spirits on 
slates may linger in rural or suburban districts, but 
it has lent itself to such trickery, and been exposed 
so thoroughly, that mediums have generally abandoned 
it. For whole decades it was the chief way of com- 
municating with the spirits, and weird and wonderful 
were the artifices by which the medium defeated the 


growing sense of caution of the sitters. In spite of 
the exposures of Slade, the English medium Eglinton 
adopted and improved his methods, and he was one 
of the bright stars of the Spiritualist world for twenty 
years. He was detected in fraud as early as 1876. 
At that time he gave materialization-stances, at 
which the ghostly form of ''Abdullah" appeared. 
Archdeacon Colley found the beard and draperies of 
Abdullah in his trunk. But exposure never ruins 
a medium in the Spiritualist world, and ten years 
later Eglinton was the most successful and respected 
medium in England, especially for slate-messages. 

Hodgson more than suspected him, and he at last 
found a man, Mr. S. J. Davey, who was able to 
reproduce all his tricks. He wrote messages while 
he held the slates under the table, and he substituted 
prepared slates for clean slates under the noses of 
his sitters. Perhaps the most valuable part of his 
experience was this substitution, which is one of 
the fundamental elements of mediumistic trickery. 
Spiritualists— indeed, inquirers generally— honestly 
flatter themselves that they have taken care that 
there was no deception of this kind. Such confidence 
is foolish, as the professional conjurer does this kind 
of substitution under our eyes habitually, and we 
never see him do it. In order to make people more 
cautious Davey, with Dr. Hodgson's connivance, set 
up as a medium and gave sittings to Spiritualists. 
They afterwards sent accounts of their experiences 
to the Society for Psychical Research. They were, 
as usual, certain that there was no trickery, and that 
the messages were genuine. Davey then wrote 
correct accounts of what he had done, and it was 
seen that the accounts of the sitters were inaccurate 


and their observation faulty. Some of them indig- 
nantly retorted that Davey was a genuine medium, 
but found it more profitable to pose as a conjurer 
and exposer of mediums ! 

In a work specially devoted to this subject (Spirit 
Slate Wiiting and Kindred Phenomenay 1899) Mr. 
W. E. Robinson gives about thirty different fraudulent 
ways of getting spirit-messages. Indeed, many of 
these may be sub-divided, and you get scores of 
methods. One method, for instance, is to write a 
message with invisible fluid on paper, seal the 
apparently blank paper in an envelope, and then let 
the message appear and pretend that the spirits wrote 
it. Mr. Robinson gives thirty-seven different recipes 
for the "invisible ink," and sixteen of these require 
only heat, which is easily applied, to develop them. 
In other cases the inside of the envelope has been 
moistened with a chemical solution which develops 
the hidden writing. One medium used to put an 
apparently blank sheet of paper in a clear bottle and 
seal it. Here trickery seemed impossible, and the 
sitter was greatly impressed at receiving a pious 
message on the paper. But the message had been 
written in advance with a weak solution of copper 
sulphate, and the bottle had been washed out with 
ammonia, which develops it. 

In slate-messages much use is made of a false flap, 
or a loose sheet of slate which fits imperceptibly on 
one side of the framed slate. It conceals the message 
written on the slate, and is removed under the table 
or under cover of a newspaper. A sheet of slate- 
coloured silk or cloth is sometimes fitted on the slate, 
and it is drawn up the medium's sleeve or rolled into 
the frame of the slate. Invisible messages may be 


written on the slate with onion or lemon juice, and 
developed by lightly passing over them a cloth con- 
taining powdered chalk. Double-frame slates lend 
themselves to infinite trickery. Slates are provided 
by '* the trade " with false hinges and all kinds of 
mechanism. But even when the sitter brings his 
own slates, as Zollner did, and ties them up and 
seals them, the medium is not baffled. They are 
laid aside, for the spirits to write on at their leisure. 
At the first convenient opportunity the medium 
removes the wax, without spoiling the seal, by passing 
a heated knife-blade or fine wire beneath it, and, 
after untying the strings, heats the under-surface of 
the wax and sticks it on again. 

Mediums found that sitters were greatly impressed 
if they heard the sound of the spirits writing on the 
slate. This was easily done by scraping with the 
finger nail, and cautious people wanted to have a 
security against fraud. One medium gave them 
adequate security. He held both hands above the 
table, yet writing was distinctly heard underneath it. 
The man had attached to the table a clamp holding 
a bit of slate-pencil, and against this he rubbed a 
pencil which was fastened to his trousers by loops of 
black silk. Others can use a pencil with their toes — 
I have seen an armless Bulgar girl use a pen with 
her toes as neatly as a good writer uses his fingers — 
and hold both hands above the table. 

This trick is often used when a message is wanted 
in answer to a question and cannot be written in 
advance. The usual method is, however, to hold the 
slate under the table-top and write on it while it is 
held there. At first this was done by means of a 
tiny bit of slate-pencil slipped under the nail of the 


big finger. Slade soon found that this was suspected, 
and he made a point of keeping his nails short. The 
trade which is at the back of mediums then supplied 
thimbles with bits of pencil attached, which the 
medium could slip on to his finger as he put the 
slate under the table. Even thimbles with three 
differently coloured chalks were made, and the 
innocent sitter would be invited to select his own 
colour for the spirits to write in. The most amazing 
tricks were developed. Robinson tells of a man who 
would let you bring your own slate and hold it against 
your own breast, and the message then appeared on 
it. He "tried" your slate when you brought it by 
writing on it with his pencil. But, of course, he 
sponged out all his writing before he handed the 
slate back to you, as you could see. He had a double 
pencil — slate at one end and silver nitrate at the 
other — and what he wrote with the latter was invisible 
until it was damped with salt-water. Well, the 
sponging (or damping) had been done with salt-water, 
and so the message (in silver nitrate) appeared as the 
slate dried against your breast. 

When you thus allow the medium to use his own 
apparatus in his own room you need not be surprised 
at any result whatever. The sensible man will 
remember that behind the mediums is the same 
ingenious industry which supplies conjuring outfits. 
Mr. Selbit showed Mr. Moseley a typewriter, on an 
ordinary-looking table, which spelt out, by invisible 
fingers, a message in reply to your question. There 
was an electrical mechanism in the table, and an 
electrician in the next room controlling it by a wire 
through the hollow table-leg. But even without such 
elaborate mechanism mediums can baffle quite 


vigilant sitters. There was one who would allow you 
to examine his nails, yet he got slate-messages with- 
out putting the slate under the table. He had ground 
slate-pencil to dust, mixed it with gum, and then cut 
the mixture into little cubes or pellets. He simply 
stuck these on his trousers, and, after you had 
examined his nails, helped himself to one. 

When the answers are given on paper a hundred 
other tricks are employed. First the medium must 
learn the question you are putting to the spirits. If 
you put it mentally, you will never get more than 
a lucky or unlucky guess, unless you happen to be 
one of those sitters for whom the medium was 
prepared. You need not fear telepathy. It must be 
admitted to-day that the evidence for telepathy or 
thought-transference is in as parlous a condition as 
the evidence for Spiritualism. After all the challenges 
and discussions not a single serious claim lies before 
us. Sir A. C. Doyle, it is true, tells {Debate, p. 28) 
quite confidently of Mr. Lethem getting an answer to 
his unspoken questions. But Sir Arthur, as usual, 
does not tell all the facts. The unspoken questions 
to which Mrs. Lethem, as a medium, gave " correct 
answers" were precisely the two test questions which 
Mr. Lethem had put to a medium some time before ! 
We may surely presume that he had confided that 
wonderful experience to the wife of his bosom. 

No, there is no clear case of telepathy, or answers 
to unspoken questions, on record. The medium gets 
you to write your questions. Spirits are supposed to 
be more at home in reading such spiritual things as 
thoughts than in reading material scribbles ; but your 
medium is not a spirit, and you will get no answer 
unless he knows the question. If you write your 


question on the pad which he kindly offers, it is easy. 
There is a carbon paper underneath, which gives him 
a duplicate. In one very elaborate case the carbon 
and duplicate were under the cloth, and were drawn 
off, when you had finished writing, through a hollow 
leg of the table into the next room. One medium 
developed the art of reading what you wrote from the 
movements of the top of your pencil. Others, like 
Foster, artfully stole your bit of paper and substituted 
dummies. But I will quote from Mr. Carrington 
a last trick which will give the reader a sufficiently 
large idea of the wonderful ingenuity which mediums 
use in these spirit messages. 

He tells in his Personal Experiences of SpiritiiaUsm 
of a pair of Chicago mediums — the same Misses 
Bangs who painted spirit pictures before your eyes, 
as I have previously described — whose method was 
extraordinarily difficult to detect. You wrote a letter 
to a deceased person. You folded a blank sheet with 
this letter, and sealed them yourself in an envelope. 
This letter you handed to Miss Bangs as she sat at 
the table opposite you. After a long delay, but 
without her leaving the room, she restored the 
envelope (which had lain on the table under a 
blotter) to you intact, and you found a letter to you 
from your spirit friend written on the blank sheet 
you had enclosed. 

Mr. Carrington admits that he can only guess the 
way in which this striking performance was done, but 
the reader who cares to read his full and interesting 
account will feel that his conjecture is right. The 
letter did not remain on the table. Under cover of 
the blotting pad and various nervous movements it 
was conveyed to the medium's lap, and from there to 


a shallow tray on the floor under the table. The 
medium, he noticed, sat close to a door which led 
into an adjoining room, and he believes that the tray 
was pulled by a string from under the table into the 
next room. An expert whom he afterwards sent to 
examine the house, under cover of a sitting, verified 
his conjecture that there was space enough at the 
bottom of the door to pull a shallow tray through. 
In the next room it was easy for Miss Bangs No. 2 to 
open the letter, write the reply, and seal the envelope 
again. Even wax seals offer no difficulty to mediums. 
The letter was re-conducted to the table in the same 
furtive way. A desperate Spiritualist may say that 
his hypothesis is simpler than this. But there is one 
little difficulty. No such person had ever existed as 
the supposed dead relative to whom Mr. Carrington 
addressed his letter ! He had hoaxed the hoaxer. 

Here were two quiet and inoffensive-looking spin- 
sters earning a good living by deceptive practices 
(this and the spirit-painting trick) which they had 
themselves, apparently, originated, and which taxed 
the ingenuity of an expert conjurer to discover. 
What chance has the ordinary inquirer, much less 
the eager Spiritualist, against guile of this descrip- 
tion? A boy of sixteen can buy a box of conjuring 
apparatus for a guinea. It contains only tricks 
which have been scattered over the country for years. 
Yet in your own drawing-room he can, after a little 
practice, cheat your eyes every time, although you 
know that there is trickery, and are keenly on the 
look-out for it. What chance have you, then, against 
a man or woman who has been conjuring for twenty 
years? What chance have you in a poor light? 
What earthly chance have you in the dark? It is 


amazing how inquirers and Spiritualists forget this 
elementary truism. They tell you repeatedly, with 
the air of supreme experts in conjuring, that " there 
was no possibility of fraud." That is sheer self- 
deception. Even expert conjurers have been com- 
pletely deceived by mediums, as Bellachini was with 
Slade (a confessed impostor) and Carrington was with 
Eusapia Palladino. The man who tells you that 
there was no fraud because he saw none is as foolish 
as the man who expects you either to explain where 
the fraud was or else embrace Spiritualism. 

There is one other method of receiving messages 
which we must briefly notice. It is, to Spiritualists, 
the most impressive of all. The ghost of the dead 
talks directly to you. A " direct voice " medium is, 
of course, required, and some kind of trumpet is 
provided by the medium through which the spirit 
speaks to you. If you are known to the medium, or 
if you have a good imagination and are very eager, 
you can recognize the very accents of your dead wife 
or mother-in-law. But there is one disadvantage of 
this impressive phenomenon. It must take place in 
complete darkness ; and we remember the warning of 
that high and experienced psychic authority. Dr. 
Maxwell, that the man who seeks any kind of 
phenomena in complete darkness is wasting his 

Spiritualist writers are amusing when they try to 
reconcile us to the conditions which their mediums 
have imposed on them. Are there not certain con- 
ditions for the appearance of all scientific phenomena, 
they ask us? Most assuredly. You cannot grow 
carrots without soil, and so on. Is not darkness a 
condition of certain scientific processes ? Again, most 


certainly. The photographic plate must be prepared 

in the dark, or in a dull red light. Therefore 

That is just where the Spiritualist fails. If the 
darkness under cover of which the photographic 
chemist prepares his plates lent itself equally to cover 
fraud or to protect his operations, there would be a 
parallel. As it is, there is no parallel. 

The red light of the photographer can serve only 
one purpose. When the medium uses it, there are 
two purposes conceivable. One is, on the Spiritualist 
theory, that white light may interfere with the 
'* magnetism," or the *' psychic force," or whatever 
the latest jargon is. The other conceivable purpose 
is that it may cover fraud. Everybody admits that 
the darkening of the planet since 1848 has covered 
*' a vast amount of fraud," to use the words of Baron 
Schrenck. Few people admit that it has favoured 
real phenomena. It is therefore quite absurd to 
attempt to reconcile us to the darkness by the analogy 
of photographic operations. There is no analogy at 
all. In the one case the poor light certainly favours 
fraud, and does not certainly do anything else. In 
the other case the red light never covers fraud, but 
has a single clear purpose. 

Red light, as I have said, is the most tiring for the 
eye of all kinds of light. The man who thinks that 
he can control the hands and feet of seven mediums 
in such a light cannot expect to be taken seriousl3\ 
He can expect only to be taken in. But the man who 
pays any attention to phenomena for which the 
medium requires pitch darkness is even worse. Why 
not simply imagine that the dead still live, and save 
the guinea ? You have not the slightest guarantee of 
the genuineness of the phenomena. Imagining that 


you can recognize the voice or the features is one of 
the oldest of illusions. 

In the summer of 1912 our Spiritualists were elated 
by the discovery of a new medium of the most 
powerful type. Mrs. Ebba Wriedt came from that 
perennial breeding-ground of great mediums, the 
United States, where she had long been known. In 
1^^^ ^ 1912 "she illumined London. Through her W. T. 
Stead was able once more to address Spiritualists 
viva voce. One recognized the familiar voice unmis- 
takably. Scepticism was ludicrous. Did not a 
Serbian diplomatist talk to the spirit in Serb, which 
Mrs. Wriedt did not know, and answer for the 
genuineness of the phenomena ? Light had wonder- 
ful columns on Mrs. Wriedt's marvels. She was, the 
editor of a ps3^chic journal said, " the pride and the 
most convincing argument of the whole Spiritualist 
and Theosophical world." In admiring her powers, 
even the mutual hostility of Spiritualist and Theo- 
sophist was laid aside, it seems. 

Norwegian Spiritualists were eager to avail them- 
selves of this rare gift, and they asked if Norwegian 
spirits could speak through the great medium. 
After consulting the spirits— a cynic would say, after 
practising a word or two of Norwegian — Mrs. Wriedt 
replied in the affirmative, and boldly crossed the sea. 
There is, of course, no intrinsic reason, on the 
Spiritualist theory, why spirits should be confined to 
the language of the medium. In " direct voice " they 
do not even have to use her vocal organs. A trumpet 
lies on the ground or the table, and the spirits lift it 
up and megaphone (very softly) through it. It is 
quite inexplicable to those of us who are mere 
inquirers why the spirits must always talk English in 


England, American in America, and so on. Even 
when they try, as in the case of the Thomas brothers, 
to talk their native American to us in England, the 
result is half bad American and half Welsh-English. 
It would be much more impressive to our hesitating 
generation if a half-dozen foreigners were brought to 
the sitting, and each had a real conversation — not a 
word or two — with a ghost of his own nationality. 
Somehow the spirits insist on speaking the language, 
and even the dialect, of the medium. We shall 
consider in the next chapter a few supposed 
variations from this unfortunate rule of spirit- 

Well, Mrs. Wriedt went to Norway, and confronted 
her new inquirers with all the solidity and confidence 
of the well-built American matron. Somehow, the 
vocabulary of the Norwegian dead, who came along, 
was very limited. They could say only ''Yes" or 
*' No " in Norwegian. Otherwise the first stance was 
very good. To make up for their culpable ignorance 
of their native tongue the Norwegian ghosts scattered 
flowers about the dark room, gave ghostly music, and 
did other marvellous things. But there were two 
ladies and a professor — Frau Nielsen and Frau Anker 
and Professor Birkeland— who did not like this " Yes " 
and *' No " business. It was scriptural, but not lady- 
like. So the professor held Mrs. Wriedt' s hands very 
firmly at the second stance, and for twenty minutes 
the spirits were dumb. They always resent such 
things, as every Spiritualist knows. The trumpets 
lay on the floor, neglected and silent. 

At length Professor Birkeland heard some very 
faint explosive sounds which his ears located in the 
trumpets or horns (in shape something like the old 


coach-horn). He looked steadily and saw them move 
slightly, a phosphorescent light in them making the 
movements clear. A good Spiritualist would have 
seen that this was the beginning of manifestations, 
and he would have paid close attention to the trumpets 
and relaxed his hard control of Mrs. Wriedt. The 
professor was, however, of the type which mediums 
call ''brutal." He jumped up, switched on the 
electric light, and, before the Spiritualists could 
interfere, had snatched the two trumpets from the 
floor and bolted to the nearest analytic chemist. So the 
curtain fell on one more glorious act in the Spiritualist 
drama. Mrs. Wriedt had put in the trumpet particles 
of metallic potassium which, meeting the moisture 
she had also thoughtfully provided, explained the 
" psychic movements." Close examination disclosed 
that on other occasions she had used Lycopodium 
seeds to produce the same effect. 

Professor Birkeland did not discover how the voices 
were produced, but they offer no difficulty. The 
trumpets were, he found, telescopic. Each consisted 
of three parts, and could stretch to nearly three feet. 
When some guileless lady, who is controlling the 
medium, allows a hand to stray in the usual way, the 
trumpet is seized, and it will give a " direct voice " 
over the heads of the sitters or close to any one of 
them. When the trumpet remains on the ground 
during the ghostly message, the medium has a rubber 
speaking-tube fitted to it. When no trumpet is pro- 
vided at all, it makes no difference. The medium has 
thoughtfully brought one of these telescopic aluminium 
tubes in his trousers. It folds up to less than a foot. 
In some of the earlier cases, possibly still in some 
cases, the medium's little daughter, who sits demure 


and mildly interested on the couch before the light is 
switched off, mounts the furniture in the dark, and 
obligingly impersonates the ghost. 

No one would accuse Mr. Crawford, of Belfast, of 
being ultra-critical, yet his experience confirms my 
conclusions. His marvellous experiences with the 
pious Kathleen drew the attention of the Spiritualist 
world, and all sorts of mediums came to help. First 
he tried the clairvoyants. But they saw such weird 
and contradictory things that he was worried. None 
of them saw the wonderful "psychic cantilever" 
which he thought the spirits made to lift the table, 
but they all saw ghostly hands where he did not want 
them ; and the worst of it was that the same spirits 
which had confirmed his theory of a cantilever, and 
even allowed him to take a photograph (which he has 
meanly refused to publish) of it, now joyously con- 
firmed the quite different theory of the Spiritualist 

So he gave it up, and next tried a ''direct voice" 
medium. He is fairly polite about the result. He 
got plenty of voices from all quarters— in total dark- 
ness. Not only did a voice come from the ceiling, 
but a mark was made on it. The medium's silk coat 
was frivolously taken off her by the ghosts, and flung 
on the lap of one of the sitters. Strangely, these 
things do not impress him as much as the raising of 
a two-pound stool to a height of four feet does. He 
drops dark hints that things were said about this 
" direct voice" medium. She was a big woman, and 
she was not searched ; and telescopic aluminium tubes 
take up little room. Mr. Crawford put his little elec- 
trical register near her feet, and she was " annoyed 
and nervous." In short, Mr. Crawford seems to have 


formed the same opinion as any sensible person would 
in the circumstances.^ 

We have still to examine the claims of the auto- 
matic writers ; but, after all this, the reader will not 
expect much. Never yet was a message received 
which could not have been learned by the medium 
in a normal way. The overwhelming mass of the 
messages which are delivered daily in every country 
are fraudulent. In an amusing recent work {The 
Road to En-Dor) two officers have shown us how 
easy it was to dupe even educated men by these 
professions of marvellous powers. The advantage is 
on the side of the conjurer every time, and the sitter 
has little chance. Let the mediums come before a 
competent tribunal. All sorts of inducements have 
been offered to them to do so, but they are very shy 
of competent investigators. In 1911 an advertise- 
ment in the Ti7nes offered ^1,000 to any medium 
who would merely give proof of possessing telepathic 
power, and there was not a single offer. This year 
Mr. Joseph Rinn, a former member of the American 
Society for Psychical Research and a life-long inquirer, 
has deposited with that Society a sum of £1,000 for 
any evidence of communication with the dead under 
proper conditions. There will again be no applica- 
tion. Mediums prefer a simpler and more reverent 
audience, even if the fees be smaller. But those who 
consult them under their own conditions, knowing 
that fraud has been practised under those conditions 
from San Francisco to Petrograd ever since 1848, 
must not talk to us about " evidence." 

^ These experiments are recorded in his Experiments in Psychical 
Science (1919), pp. 134-35 and 170-89. 

Chapter VIII 


The Spiritualist — if any Spiritualist reader has 
persevered thus far — will be surprised to hear that 
many Rationalists censure me because I decline to 
admit that his movement is '' all fraud." For 
heaven's sake, he will exclaim, let us hear something 
about our honesty for a change ! Even the impartial 
outsider will possibly welcome such a change. How 
is it possible, he will ask, that so many distinguished 
men have given their names to the movement if it is 
all fraudulent ? 

Now let us have a word first on these supposed 
distinguished Spiritualists. During the debate with 
me Sir A. C. Doyle produced a tiny red book and 
told the audience that it contained *'the names of 
160 people of high distinction, many of them of great 
eminence, including over forty professors" (p. 19). 

He said expressly that ''these 160 people have 

announced themselves as Spiritualists" (p. 20). The 
book was handed to me, and it will be understood 
that I could not very well read it and attend to my 
opponent's speech, to which I had to reply. But 
I saw at a glance several utterly destructive weak- 
nesses. Several men were described as " professor " 
who had no right to the title. Several men were 
included who were certainly not Spiritualists (Richet, 
Ochorowicz, Schiaparelli, Flammarion, Maxwell, etc.). 
And in not one single case is a precise reference given 



for the words which are attributed to these men. My 
opponent regretted that chapter and verse were not 
"always" (this word is omitted from the printed 
Debate) quoted in his little book. As a matter of 
fact, "chapter and verse " (book and page) are never 
given, in any instance ; and in the vast majority of 
the 160 cases not even words are quoted to justify 
the inclusion. He further said that he quite admitted 
that some of the " forty professors " in the book did 
not go so far as Spiritualists. But I have already 
quoted his words to the effect that they had 
"announced themselves as Spiritualists," and the 
same impression is undoubtedly conveyed by the 
book itself, the title of which is JVho Are These 
Spiritualists '! 

I have the book before me, and any reader who 
cares to glance at the printed Debate and see what Sir 
A. C. Doyle said about it will be astonished when I 
describe it. The printed text gives 126 names, and 
32 further names (many illegible) are written on the 
margins in Sir A. C. Doyle's hand. Only in 53 cases 
out of the 158 is any quotation given from the person 
named, and in not one of these cases are we told 
where the quotation may be verified. There are 27 
(not 49, as Sir Arthur said) men described as 
"professors"; and of these several never were 
professors, and very few ever were Spiritualists. Sir 
A. C. Doyle has himself included Professor Morselli, 
who calls Spiritualism " childish and immoral." 
There are men included who died before Spiritualism 
was born, and there are twenty or thirty Agnostics 
included. Men like "Lord Dunraven, Lord Adare, 
and Alexander Wilder " are described, with the most 
amazing effrontery, as " some of the world's greatest 


authors." Padre Secchi, the pious Roman Catholic, 
is included. Thackeray, Sir E. Arnold, Professor de 
Morgan, Thiers, Lord Brougham, Forbes Winslow, 
Longfellow, Ruskin, Abraham Lincoln, and other 
distinguished sceptics are dragged in. For sloppy, 
slovenly, loose, and worthless work — and I have in 
twenty years of controversy had to handle a good deal 
— this little book would be hard to beat. 

A list of distinguished Spiritualists could be 
accommodated on a single page of this book. A list 
of distinguished Rationalists in the same period 
(1848-1920) would take twenty pages. The truth is 
that in the earlier days of Spiritualism, when less was 
known than we now know about mediumistic fraud, a 
number of distinguished men were '* converted." 
They were in every case converted by the impostors I 
have exposed in the course of this work — by Home, 
Florrie Cook, Mrs. Guppy, Eglinton, Slade, Morse, 
Holmes, etc. What is the value of such conversions ? 
Who are the '* distinguished " Spiritualists to-day ? 
Sir A. C. Doyle, Sir 0. Lodge, Sir W. Barrett, Mr- 

Gerald Balfour The reader will be astonished to 

know that those are the only names of living men of 
any distinction that Sir A. C. Doyle dares to give, 
either in the text or on the margins of his book. 
What their opinion is worth the reader may judge 
for himself. 

Let us pass on. I wrote recently in the Literary 
Guide that " there are hundreds of honest mediums." 
Some of my readers resented this as over-generous. 
Possibly they have only a vague idea of Spiritualism, 
and it is advisable for us to reflect clearly on the 
point. In the eyes of Spiritualists every man or 
woman, paid or unpaid, who is supposed to be in any 


way in communication with spirits is a *' medium." 
The word does not simply apply to men and women 
who, for payment, sit in cabinets or in a circle, and 
lift tables, play guitars, write on slates, produce 
ghosts, pull furniture about, tug the beards of sitters, 
and so on. I should agree with the reader that these 
people, paid or unpaid, and all mediums who operate 
in the dark or in red light, are probably frauds. 
That is a fair conclusion from the preceding chapters, 
in which I have exposed every variety of their mani- 
festations, and from the history of Spiritualism. 

This rules out all professional mediums and a large 
proportion of the amateurs. Perhaps the reader does 
not know, and would like to know, what a s6ance is 
like. As far as the " more powerful " (and more 
certainly fraudulent) mediums are concerned, I have 
already given a sufficient description. A cloth-covered 
frame or "cabinet" is raised at one end of the room, or 
a curtain is drawn across an alcove or corner. In 
this the medium generally (not always) sits, and the 
curtains are closed until the medium thinks fit to 
have them opened. The medium is sometimes 
hypnotized, and sometimes falls into a natural 
trance ; it matters little, for the trance is invariably 
a sham, and the medium is wide awake all the time, 
though he simulates the appearance of a trance. 
The lights are lowered or extinguished. Generally 
a red-glass lantern or bulb (sometimes several) is lit. 
Then, after a time, which is occupied by singing or 
music (to drown the noise of the medium's move- 
ments), the ghost appears, or the tambourine is 
played, or the table is lifted, and so on. 

These are the heavier and more expensive perfor- 
mances, and are constantly being exposed. The 


medium has apparatus in the false seat of his chair 
or concealed about his person. But the common, 
daily stance is quite different. You sit round a table 
or in a circle, or (if you will rise to the price) sit 
alone with the lady. The light may be good. The 
medium ** sees " and describes spirit forms hovering 
about you. If you are one of the people whom the 
medium has, through an intermediary, attracted to 
the circle, you get some accurate details. If not, the 
medium begins with generalities and, studying your 
expression, feels her way to details. It is generally 
waste of time. Friends of mine have gone from one 
to another medium in London, and they tell me that 
it is simply a tedious and most irritating way of 
convincing oneself that these people are all frauds. 

But beyond these are hundreds, or thousands, 
of private individuals who discover that they are 
mediums. They take a pencil in their hands, fall 
into a passive, dreamy state, and presently the pencil 
** automatically " writes messages from the spirit 
world. Others use the planchette (a pencil fixed in 
a heart-shaped board which, when the medium's 
fingers are on it, writes on a sheet of paper) or the 
ouija board (in which the apex of the heart spells out 
messages by pointing rapidly to the letters of the 
alphabet painted on a larger board over which it 
travels). I have studied all three forms, and may 
take them together as *' automatic writing." 

The first question is whether this can be done 
unconsciously. If such messages are consciously 
spelt or written by the medium, it is, of course, fraud, 
because the messages purport to come from the dead. 
My own experience convinces me that even here there 
is a vast amount of fraud. The social status and 


general character of the medium do not seem to 
matter at all, as we have repeatedly seen. People 
get into the attitude of the child. "I can do what 
you can't do," you constantly hear the child say to 
its fellows. There is a good deal of the child in all 
of us. Prestige, distinction, credit for a rare or 
original power, is as much sought as money ; and 
this motive grows stronger when the medium already 
has money. Everybody knows, or ought to know, 
the perfectly authentic story of Mozart's Requiem. 
A wealthy amateur, Count Walsegg, secretly paid 
Mozart to compose that famous Mass, and it was to 
be passed off by Walsegg as his own. 

But while there is much fraud even in automatic 
writing, there are certainly hundreds of mediums of 
this description who quite honestly believe that they 
are spirit-controlled. Mr. G. B. Shaw's mother was 
an automatic artist of that class. I have seen some 
of her spirit drawings. A high-minded medical man 
of my acquaintance was a medium of the same type. 
The class is very numerous. Psychologically, it is 
not very difficult to understand. A pianist can play 
quite complicated pieces unconsciously or subcon- 
sciously. A writer, who cannot normally write decent 
fiction, may have wonderful flights of imagination in 
a dream. An expert worker can do quite complicated 
things without attention. Something of the same 
faculty seems to come in time to the automatic 
writer or artist. Consciousness is more or less — 
never entirely, perhaps — switched off from its usual 
connection with the hand, and the part of the brain- 
machine which is not lit by consciousness takes over 
the connection. 

That this can be done in perfect honesty will be 


clear to every reader of Flammarion's book, Les 
forces naturelles inconmtes. Flammarion never became 
a Spiritualist, but he was quite a fluent automatic 
writer in his youth. Victorien Sardou, the great 
dramatist, belonged to the same circle, and was an 
automatic draughtsman. Flammarion gives speci- 
mens of the work of both. Quite without a deliberate 
intention, he signed his automatic writing (on science) 
" Galileo." 

I have no doubt that at the time both these distin- 
guished men were strongly tempted to embrace the 
Spiritualist theory. These experiences, and the 
experiences of the s6ance, can be exceedingly impres- 
sive and dramatic. The man who has never been 
there is too apt to think that all Spiritualists are 
fools. I have been to seances, and I do not admit 
that. I am quarrelling with Spiritualists because 
they will not realize the possibilities and the actual 
abundance of fraud. But the seance is undoubtedly 
very impressive at times. I have held a serious 
conversation, in German and Latin, through an 
amateur medium of my own acquaintance, with the 
supposed spirit of a certain German theologian of the 
last century whose name (as given) was well known 
to me. I do not at all wonder that many succumb in 
sittings of this sort. But I found invariably that, if 
one resolutely kept one's head and devised crucial 
tests, the claim broke down. So it is with Flam- 
marion and Sardou. What " Galileo " wrote in 1870 
was just the astronomy of that time ; and much of it 
is totally wrong to-day. Sardou, on the other hand, 
drew remarkable sketches of life on Jupiter ; and we 
know to-day that Jupiter is red-hot ! 

This is a broad characteristic of automatic writing 


since it began in the fifties of the nineteenth century. 
At its best it merely reflected the culture of the time, 
which was often wrong. Stainton Moses, for instance, 
wrote reams of edifying revelation. But I find among 
his wonderful utterances about ancient history certain 
statements concerning the early Hindus and Persians 
which recent discoveries have completely falsified. 
He had been reading certain books which were just 
passable (though already a little out of date) fifty 
years ago. Among other things the spirits told him 
that Manu lived 3,000 b.c, and that there was a high 
" Brahminical lore " long before that date ! So with 
Andrew Jackson Davis, the first of these marvellous 
bringers of wisdom from the spirit world. He had 
probably read R. Chambers's Vestiges of Creation, and 
he gave out weird and wonderful revelations about 
evolution. In the beginning was a clam, which begot 
a tadpole, which begot a quadruped, and so on. Davis 
certainly lied hard when he used to deny that he had 
read the books to which his '' revelations " were traced, 
but no one can deny his originality. 

Then there was Fowler, an American medical 
student and pious amateur medium, who was regarded 
with reverence by the American Spiritualists. I invite 
the reader's particular attention to this man, as he is 
one of those unpaid individuals who are supposed 
(by Spiritualists) to have no conceivable motive for 
cheating. Yet he lied and cheated in the most 
original fashion. He told his friends that ghostly 
men entered his bedroom at nights, produced ghostly 
pens and ink, and left messages in Hebrew on his 
table. An expert in Hebrew found that the message 
was a very bad copy of a passage from the Hebrew 
text of Daniel. This did not " affect the faith of 


Spiritualists, who put a piece of parchment in 
Fowler's room for a further message. They had a 
rich reward. They found next day a spiritual mani- 
festo signed by no less than fifty-six spirits, including 
some of the statesmen who had signed the Declaration 
of Independence. 

The frauds were very gross in those early decades. 
Franklin, Washington, even Thomas Paine, sent 
hundreds of messages from the *' Summerland." As 
time went on, Socrates, Plato, Sir I. Newton, Milton, 
Galileo, Aristotle, and nearly everybody whose name 
was in an encyclopaedia, guided the automatic writers. 
When one reads the inane twaddle signed with their 
names, one wonders that even simple people could be 
deceived. Dante dictated a poem of three thousand 
lines in the richest provincial American. One auto- 
matic writer wrote, under inspiration, a book of a 
hundred thousand words. It is estimated that there 
were two thousand writing mediums in the United 
States alone four years after the foundation of the 

Mrs. Piper was chiefly an automatic writer in the 
latter part of her famous career as a medium, but we 
need scarcely discuss further her accomplishments. 
In her later years she said that she did not claim to 
be controlled by spirits, and this is sometimes wrongly 
described as a confession of fraud. What she directly 
meant was that she did not profess any opinion as to 
the source of the knowledge she gave to sitters. She 
seemed to favour the theory of telepathy. When, 
however, we remember that she spoke constantly in 
the name of spirits (Longfellow, Phinuit, Pelham, 
Myers, etc.), the plea seems curious. Those who 
believe that she was really in a sort of trance-state. 


and knew not what she was doing, may be disposed 
to accept Podmore's theory, that her subconscious 
personality dramatized these various spirits or sup- 
posed spirits. Some of us do not like this idea of 
trance. In the hundreds of exact records of pro- 
ceedings with mediums that I have read, I have not 
seen a page that suggested a genuine '' trance," but 
I have noted scores and scores of passages which 
showed that the medium feigned to be in a trance, 
but was very wide awake. 

Mrs. Thompson is another clairvoyant and auto- 
matic writer who has been much appreciated by 
modern Spiritualists. It is well to recall that before 
1898 she was a medium for " physical phenomena." 
She even brought about materializations. Then she 
met Mr. Myers, and her powers assumed a more 
refined form. Dr. Hodgson, that quaint mixture of 
blunt criticism and occasional credulity, had six 
sittings with her, and roundly stated that she was a 
fraud. The correct information which she gave him 
was, he said, taken from letters to which she had 
access, or from works of reference like Who's Who. 
In one case, which made a great impression, she gave 
some remarkably abstruse and correct information. 
It was afterwards found that the facts were stated in 
an old diary which had belonged to her husband. 
She herself produced the diary, and said that she 
had never read it ; so, of course, everybody believed 
her. When Professor Sidgwick died, in 1900, his 
" spirit " used to communicate through her. She 
reproduced his manner, and even his writing (which 
she said she had never seen), very fairly ; but she 
could give no communication from him of " eviden- 
tial" value. 


The impersonation of dead people by the " en- 
tranced" medium makes a great impression on 
Spiritualists. It is difficult to understand why. One 
medium quite convinced a friend of mine by such a 
performance. She sat, in the circle, in a trance one 
day, when she suddenly rose from her chair, stroked 
an imaginary moustache, and began to speak in a 
gruff voice. "He" — the young lady had become a 
cavalry man — explained in a dazed way that he had 
died at Knightsbridge Barracks on the previous day, 
and gave his name. Great was the joy of the elect on 
finding afterwards that a soldier of the name had died 
at Knightsbridge on the previous day. 

It was quite childish. It is just by learning such 
out-of-the-way facts, as they easily can, and making 
use of them, that the mediums keep up their reputa- 
tions. There was no reason whatever why the 
medium should not have learned of the death and 
made so profitable a use of it. Stainton Moses often 
did such things. One day he was possessed by the 
spirit of a cabman who said that he had been killed 
on the streets of London that very afternoon. By an 
unusual oversight the spirit did not give his name. 
It was afterwards found that the accident was reported 
in an evening paper which Stainton Moses might have 
seen just before the stance ; and, by a curious coin- 
cidence, the reporter had not given the cabman's 
name. In other cases, where mediums had been 
invited to districts with which they were not familiar, 
yet they gave quite accurate details about local dead, 
it was found on inquiry that the information might 
have been gathered from the stones in the local 

A common retort of the Spiritualist, when you 


point out the possibility of the medium impersonating 
the dead, is that, " if she did so, she must be one of 
the cleverest actresses in England." You are asked, 
triumphantly, why the lady should be content with 
a few pounds a week as a despised medium, when she 
might be making five thousand a year on a stage. 
Any person who has seen these " trances " will know 
the value of their '* dramatic " art. Almost anybody 
could do it. The medium makes from three to five 
pounds a week by such things, but if she tried the 
stage she would have, at the most, a minor part with 
fifty or sixty pounds a year. Spiritualists get their 
judgments weirdly distorted by their bias. I need 
only quote the extravagant language in which Sir 
A. C. Doyle refers to Mr. Vale Owen's trash or Mrs. 
Spencer's picture of Christ. He makes the miracle 
in which he wishes to believe. 

Two particular cases of spirit messages by automatic 
writing have lately been pressed upon us, and we must 
briefly examine them. One is given in a book by 
Mr. F. Bligh Bond, called The Gate of Remembrance, 
which is recommended to us by Sir A. C. Doyle as one 
of the five particularly convincing works which he 
would have us read. He again fails to tell his readers 
that Mr. Bligh Bond draws a very different conclusion 
than his own from the facts. He has a mystical 
theory of a universal memory or consciousness, a sort 
of ocean into which the memories of the dead have 
flowed. He does not believe that the individual 
spirits of the dead monks of pre-Reformation days 
came along and dictated their views through his 
automatic-writing friend. 

Any person, however, who reads the book impartially 
will see no need for either the Spiritualist view or 


Mr. Bond's. The main point is that, through Mr. 
Bond's friend, Mr. John Alleyne, what purported to 
be the ghosts of the old monks of Glastonbury Abbey 
wrote quite vivid sketches of their medieval life in the 
Abbey and, particularly, suggested the position and 
general features of a chapel that was at the time un- 
known. As to the character or impersonation of the 
monks, which seems to Spiritualists so impressive, we 
are told by experts on medieval language that it will 
not sustain criticism. The language is quaint and 
pleasant to read, but it is not consistent either in old 
English or Latin. It is the language of a man who 
is familiar with medieval English and Latin, but does 
not speak it as his oiv7i language, and so often trips. 
It is, in other words, Mr. John Alleyne writing old 
English and medieval Latin, and stumbling occa- 

As to the indication of a buried chapel, both this 
and the general impersonation of the old monks are 
intelligible to any man who has read the book itself, 
not Spiritualist accounts of it. Mr. Bond, an 
architect and archaeologist, expected to be appointed to 
the charge of the ruins, and he and his friend Mr. 
Alleyne steeped themselves, all through the year 1907, 
in the literature of the subject. They read all that 
was known about Glastonbury, and lived for months 
in the medieval atmosphere. Then Mr. Alleyne took 
his pencil and began to write automatically. The 
general result is not strange ; nor is it at all super- 
natural that he should have formed a theory about 
the lost chapel and conveyed this to paper in the 
guise of a message from one of the old monks. 

The next work recommended to us is a short paper 
by Mr. Gerald Balfour called " The Ear of Dionysius " 


(published in the Proceedings of the Society for 
Psychical Research^ vol. xxix, March, 1917). The 
writing medium, Mrs. Verrall, a Cambridge lady of 
a highly cultivated and refined type and an excellent 
classical scholar, found in her automatic "script" on 
August 26, 1910, a reference to '' the Ear of Diony- 
sius." Three years and a-half later another writing 
medium, Mrs. Willett, got one of those rambling and 
incoherent messages, which are customary, in reference 
to " the Ear of Dionysius." This seemed to be more 
than a coincidence, as Mrs. Willett is no classical 
scholar. But Mr. Balfour candidly warns us that Mrs. 
Willett said that she had heard nothing about the 
earlier reference to the Ear of Dionysius in Mrs. 
Verrall's case. It would be remarkable if the fact 
had been kept entirely secret for three and a-half 
years, as some importance was attached to it in 
psychic circles, and we may prefer to trust Mr. 
Balfour's memory rather than Mrs. W^illett's. He 
says that he feels sure that one day, in the long 
interval, Mrs. Willett asked him what the Ear of 
Dionysius was. 

Mr. Balfour, however, believes that in the sequel 
we have fair evidence of spirit communication. The 
reader who is not familiar with these matters should 
know that a new test had been devised for controlling 
the origin of these messages. It was felt that if the 
" spirit " of one of the dead psychical researchers (who 
could no longer read or remember the sealed messages 
they had left) were to give an unintelligible message 
to one medium, a second unintelligible message to 
a second medium, and then the key to both to either 
or to a third medium, and if the contents of these 
messages were strictly withheld from the mediums 


(each knowing only her own part), a very definite 
proof of spirit origin would be afforded. Thus the 
ghost of Mr. Verrall or Mr. Myers might take a line 
of an obscure Greek poet, give one word of it to Mrs. 
Thompson, another to Mrs. Willett, and then point 
out the connection through Mrs. Verrall. Mr. Balfour 
claims that this was done in connection with the Ear 
of Dionysius. Mrs. Willett, who does not know Latin 
or Greek, got messages containing a number of 
classical allusions. Among them was one which no 
one could understand, and the key to this was some 
time afterwards given in the automatic writing of 
Mrs. Verrall. 

The reader will now begin to understand the serious 
and respectable part of modern Spiritualism. I pre- 
sume that these cultivated Spiritualists regard the 
" physical phenomena " of the movement and the 
ordinary mediums with the same contempt that I do. 
They know that fraud is being perpetrated daily, and 
that the history of the movement, since its beginning 
in 1848, has reeked with fraud. It is on these refined 
messages and cross-references that they would stake 
their faith. 

But, while we readily grant that these things offer 
an arguable case and must not be dismissed with the 
disdain which we have shown in the previous chapters, 
we feel that the new basis is altogether insecure and 
inadequate. Two mediums get a reference to so 
remote and unlikely a thing as *' the Ear of Diony- 
sius." When you put it in this simple form it sounds 
impressive ; but we saw that there was an interval of 
three and a-half years, and we do not feel at all sure 
that people so profoundly interested, so religiously 
eager, in these matters would succeed in keeping the 


first communication entirely from the ears of medium 
No. 2. In point of fact, Mr. Balfour tells us that he 
has a distinct recollection of being asked by Mrs. 
Willett, during the interval, what the Ear of Diony- 
sius was. Mrs. Willett denies it. We shall probably 
prefer the disinterested memory of Mr. Balfour. 
Now, the very same weakness is found even in the 
second part of the story. For any evidential value it 
rests on two very large suppositions : — 

1. That one medium knew absolutely nothing 
about the most interesting and promising develop- 
ment which was for months agitating the minds of 
her own friends. 

2. That another medium heroically refrained from 
reading up any classical dictionaries or works on the 
subject, and reserved her mind strictly for whatever 
information the spirits might give her. 

One can scarcely be called hypercritical if one has 
doubts about these suppositions. There does not seem 
to be any room for the theory either of telepathy or 
of spirit communication. 

The two experiences I have just analysed are 
selected by Sir A. C. Doyle as the most convincing in 
the whole of the work of the more modern and more 
refined Spiritualists. I need not linger over other 
experiences of these automatic writers. For the most 
part, automatic writing provides only vapid or inac- 
curate stuff which is its own refutation. In the early 
years, when Franklin, Shakespeare, Plato, and all the 
most illustrious dead wrote nonsense of the most 
vapoury description, the situation was quite grotesque. 
Nor is this kind of thing yet extinct. There are 
mediums practising in London to-day who put the 
sitter in communication with the sages and poets of 


ancient times. In the very best of these cases there 
is a certain silliness about the communications which 
makes them difficult to read. Even the spirits of 
Myers and Verrall seem to be in a perpetual Bank- 
Holiday mood, making naive little puns and jokes, 
and talking in the rambling, incoherent way that 
scholars do only in hours of domestic dissipation. 
There is a world thirsting (it is said) for proof that 
the dead still live. Here are (it is said) men like 
W. T. Stead, Myers, Hodgson, Verrall, Sidgwick, 
Vice- Admiral Moore, Robert Owen, etc., at the " other 
end of the wire," as William James used to say. Yet, 
apparently, nothing can be said or done that quite 
clearly goes beyond the power of the mediums. The 
arrogance of the Spiritualists in the circumstances is 

There are a dozen ways in which the theory could 
be rigorously tested. One has been tried and com- 
pletely failed : the communication of messages which 
were left in proper custody before death. We shall, 
of course, presently have an announcement that such 
a message has been read. Some zealous Spiritualist 
will leave a sealed message, and will take care that 
some medium or other is able to read it. We may be 
prepared for such things. The fact is that half-a-dozen 
serious and reliable Spiritualists have tried this test, 
and it has hopelessly miscarried. Another test was 
that devised by Dr. Hodgson— to leave messages in 
cipher, though not sealed. This also has completely 
failed. A third test would be for one of these ghosts 
of learned Cambridge men, who are so fluent on things 
that do not matter, to dictate a passage from an obscure 
Greek poet through a medium who does not know 
Greek at the request of a sitter. It is a familiar and 


ancient trick for a medium to recite or write a passage 
in a foreign language. It has been learned beforehand. 
But let a scholar ask the spirit of a dead scholar to 
spell out through the ignorant medium thei-e and then 
a specified line or passage within his knowledge. 
I have tried the experiment. It never succeeds. 
Another test would be for one of these ghostly scholars 
to dictate a word of a line of some obscure Greek poet 
(chosen by the sitter) to one medium (ignorant of 
Greek), and another word of the same line to another 
medium immediately afterwards, before there was the 
remotest possibility of communication. 

A score of such tests could be devised. Three of 
the best writing mediums the Society for Psychical 
Eesearch cares to indicate could be accommodated, 
under proper observation, in different rooms of the 
same building, and these tests carried out. We could 
invite the spirit to pass from medium to medium and 
repeat the message to all three, or give a part to each. 
Until some such rigorous inquiry is carried out, we 
may decline to be interested. I have before me several 
volumes of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical 
Research. Candidly, they are full of trash and padding. 
There is very little that merits serious consideration, 
and nothing that is not weakened by uncertainties, 
suppressions, and over-zealous eagerness. 

In fine, what impresses any man who reads much 
of all the volumes of " revelation " which have been 
vouchsafed to us is the entirely earthly character of it 
all. The Spiritualist theory is that men grow rapidly 
wiser after death. Plato is two thousand years wiser 
than he was when he lived. Ptah-hotep is six 
thousand years older and wiser. Neither these, nor 
Buddha nor Christ nor any other moralist, has a 


word of wisdom for us. In fact, a theory has had to 
he invented which supposes that they move away 
from the earth to distant regions of the spirit- world 
as they grow older, and so cannot communicate. It 
is a pity they are not ''permitted" to do so for 
propaganda purposes. But even those who remain 
in communication have learned nothing since they 
left the earth. No discovery has ever yet been 
communicated to us. In Spiritualist literature, it is 
true, there is a claim that certain unknown facts 
about the satellites of Uranus were revealed ; but 
Flammarion makes short work of the claim. The 
communications never rise above the level of the 
thought and knowledge of living humanity : never 
even above the level of the knowledge available to the 
mediums. It is scarcely an " insanity of incredulity " 
to suppose that they originated there. 

Chapter IX 


About twenty years ago a writing medium, a sober 
professional man whose character would not be 
questioned, showed me a pile of his automatic 
" script." He sincerely believed that he had for 
several years been in communication with the dead. 
I glanced over many sheets of platitude and familiar 
moralizing, and then asked him to tell me how they 
described the new world in which the dead lived. 
He hesitated, and tried to convince me that this point, 


which seemed to me the most interesting of all, was 
unimportant. When I pressed, he said that it was 
a world so different from ours that the spirits could 
hardly convey a coherent description of it in our 
language. They had to be content with such vague 
phrases as that they " lived in houses of flowers." 

That was the state of the '' new revelation" twenty 
years ago. Long before that whole volumes of quite 
precise description of ghost-land had been written, 
but it was discredited. Andrew Jackson Davis had 
invented the name " Summerland," which Sir A. C. 
Doyle adopts to-day ; but Davis's wonderful gospel 
had turned out to be a farrago of wild speculation, 
founded on an imperfect grasp of a crude, early stage 
of science. Then Stainton Moses and hundreds of 
other automatic writers had given us knowledge about 
the next world. A common feature of these early 
descriptions was that the dead lived in a quasi- 
material universe round about the earth and could 
visit the various planets and the sun at any time. 
In that case, of course, they could give most valuable 
assistance to our astronomers, and they were quite 
willing. Some said that there were living beings on 
the sun. As a matter of fact, one of our early 
astronomers had conjectured that there might be a 
cool, dark surface below the shining clouds which 
give out the light of the sun, and this ** spirit " was 
following his lead. We know to-day that no part of 
the sun falls below a temperature of 7,000° C. Others 
described life on Jupiter and Saturn, and we now 
know that they are red-hot. Another medium, Helen 
Smith, attracted to herself a most romantic interest 
for years because she was controlled by the spirit of 
a late inhabitant of the planet Mars, and we learned 


a marvellous amount of weird detail about life on 

The thing was so obviously overdone, and Spiritu- 
alism was so generally discredited in the eighties on 
account of the very numerous exposures of mediums, 
that for a time revelations were less frequent. People 
fell back very largely on the older belief, that the 
dead are "pure spirits," living in an environment 
that cannot be described in our language, which is 
material. This, in point of fact, is a hollow and 
insincere pretext. Philosophers have been accustomed 
for two thousand years to describe the life of the 
spirit, and have provided a vocabulary for any who 
are interested in it. The truth is that ideas were 
changing, and mediums were not at all sure what it 
was safe to say. 

Towards the close of the century there was some 
revival of Spiritualism, and there were fresh attempts 
to describe the beautiful world beyond the grave. 
Mediums were then in the '* houses of flowers " stage. 
It sounded very pretty, but you must not take it 
literally. With the advance of the new century, 
mediums recovered all their confidence. It was at 
the beginning of the present century that physicists 
began to discover that matter was composed of 
electrons, and ''ether" was the most discussed 
subject in the whole scientific press. Here was a 
grand opportunity. A world of ether would not be 
so crudely Materialistic as the earlier post-mortem 
world of the mediums. Yet it might be moulded by 
the imagination into a more or less material shape. 
It must be frankly admitted that the *' pure spirit " 
idea is not attractive. Those who yearn to meet 
again the people they had known and loved are a 


little chilled at the prospect of finding only what 
seems to be an abstraction, a mere mathematical 
point, a thing paler and less tangible than a streak 
of mist. Ether was therefore gladly seized as a good 
compromise. Ghost-land was in the ether of space. 

There had been, it is true, earlier references in 
Spiritualist revelations to *' ether bodies," but it is 
chiefly since the series of discoveries in science to 
which radium led that the modern Spiritualist idea 
has been evolved. As usual, the spiritual revelations 
follow in the rear of advancing science. But in this 
case the automatic writers had a great advantage. 
They need only follow the lead of Sir Oliver Lodge, 
who, however curious his ideas of physiology may be, 
is certainly an authority on ether. He began by 
hinting mysteriously that he saw " a spiritual signi- 
ficance" in ether. Following up that clue, the 
automatic writers have worked so industriously that 
we now know the ** Summerland " more thoroughly 
than we know Central Africa or Thibet. 

Buoyed up by the growing sentiment of agreement, 
as proved by the very profitable sales of his works. 
Sir Oliver Lodge, in Raymond, gave the world a vast 
amount of detail about the land beyond the grave. 
He did not guarantee it, it is true. That is not his 
way. But he assured the public that his mediums 
were undoubtedly ** in touch " with his dead son, and 
the Spiritualist public must be pardoned if they 
understood that all the marvellous matter put out in 
the name of Raymond was to be taken seriously. 
The message was really ingenious. Raymond was, 
unhappily, not merely unable to give *' direct voice " 
communications, as Sir A. C. Doyle's son is believed 
to have done, but he could not even directly com- 


municate through Mrs. Leonard, the medium. He 
used as an intermediary the spirit of a child named 
"Feda " ; and, of course, when one has to use a child 
— and such an irresponsible, lisping, foolish little 
child as "Feda" — as intermediary, you must not 
press the message literally in every part. The 
method had the advantage of pleasing Spiritualists, 
who found a complete confirmation of all their specu- 
lations about ghost-land, and at the same time 
disarming critics, because Raymond was not really 

Many people did not fully realize this when they 
bore down heavily and contemptuously on the descrip- 
tion of the next world which is given in Raymond. 
The deceased young officer had a "nice doggie," 
which he brought along with him when he strolled to 
the medium's shop to send a message to his distin- 
guished father. Presently the medium added a 
'* cat," though she said nothing about a cats'-meat 
man. Raymond had also what I believe young 
officers call '' a bird "—a young lady acquaintance on 
spiritual terms. There were cows in the spirit 
meadows and flowers in the gardens. Our " damaged 
flowers," we are told, pass over to the other side and 
raise their heads once more gloriously. Why they 
flower if there are no bees, whether they have chloro- 
phyll circulating in their leaves, whether the soil is 
sandy or clayey, etc., we are not told. The informa- 
tion comes in chance clots, as if Raymond were too 
busy with ethereal billiards to study the natural 
history of ghostland very closely. We are told to 
picture Raymond in a real suit of clothes. He was 
offered the orthodox white sheet, which every right- 
minded spirit wears ; but he had a British young 


man's repugnance to that sort of thing. So in the 
laboratories on the other side they made Eaymond an 
ordinary suit, out of '' damaged worsted " which we 
earthly wastrels had no use for. For other young 
officers, with less refined tastes, they manufactured 
whisky-and-soda and cigars. " Don't think I'm 
stretching it," Raymond observed to his father, 
through "Feda" and Mrs. Leonard. The father 
does not say what he thought. 

Now, it is, as I said, quite wrong for Spiritualists 
to plant all this upon the authority of Sir Oliver 
Lodge. Does he not warn us in a footnote that he 
has " not yet traced the source of all this supposed 
information " ? It would not take most of us long to 
do so, but the remark at least leaves open a way of 
retreat for Sir Oliver Lodge. On the other hand, 
we must not blame Spiritualists too severely. He 
assures them that this lady, Mrs. Leonard, is in 
undoubted communication with his dead son, and one 
may question whether he is entitled to take one part 
of the lady's message as genuine and leave other 
parts open. At all events, this puerile and bewildering 
nonsense was put before the world in an expensive 
book by Sir Oliver Lodge, with his personal assurance 
that Mrs. Leonard was a genuine medium. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle next gathered details from 
scores of revelations of this kind — they fell upon us 
like leaves in Vallombrosa after Sir Oliver Lodge's 
bold lead — and built them into a consistent picture of 
" Summerland." It is an ether world. Each of us 
has a duplicate of his body in ether. This is quite in 
harmony with science, he says, because some one has 
discovered that " bound " ether — that is to say, ether 
enclosed in a material body — is different from the 


free ether of space. From this slight difference 
Sir A. Co Doyle concludes that there is a portion of 
ether shaped exactly like my body ; then, by a still 
more heroic leap of the imagination, he gathers that 
this special ether has not merely the contour of 
my body, but duplicates all its internal organs and 
minute parts ; and lastly — this is a really prodigious 
leap — he supposes that this ether duplicate will 
remain when the body dissolves. On that theory, 
naturally, every flower and tree and rock that ever 
existed, every house or ship that was ever built, 
every oyster or chicken that was ever swallowed, has 
left an ether duplicate somewhere. 

Well, when you die, your ethereal body remains, 
and is animated by your soul just as the body of flesh 
was. A death-bed is, on the new view, a most 
remarkable scene. Men and women weep round the 
ghastly expiring frame, but all round them are 
invisible (ether) beings smiling and joyful. When 
the last breath leaves the prostrate body, you stand 
erect in your ethereal frame, and your ethereal friends 
gather round and wring your ethereal hand. Con- 
gratulations over, one radiant spirit takes you by the 
hand and leads you through the solid wall and out 
into the beyond. Presumably he is in a hurry to fit 
you with one of the " damaged worsted " suits. Sir 
Arthur stresses the fact that they have the same sense 
of modesty as we. 

The next step is rather vague. One gathers that 
the reborn man is dazed, and he goes to sleep for 
weeks or months. Sleep is generally understood to 
be a natural process by which nerve and muscle, 
which have become loaded with chemical refuse, are 
relieved of this by the blood. What it means in 



ghostland we have not the least idea. But why 
puzzle over details where all is a challenge to common 
human reason ? You awaken presently in Summer- 
land and get your bearings. This is so much like 
the paradise described by Mr. Vale Owen that we will 
put ourselves under the guidance of that gentleman. 
I would merely note here a little inconsistency in the 
gospel according to St. Conan. 

One of the now discovered charms of Summerland 
is that the young rapidly reach maturity, and the old 
go back to maturity. The ether-duplicate of the still- 
born child continues to grow — we would give much 
for a treatise from Professor Huxley (in his new 
incarnation) on this process of growth without mitosis 
and metabolism — and the ether-duplicate of the 
shrunken old lady of eighty smoothes out its wrinkles, 
straightens its back, and recovers its j&ne contour of 
adipose tissue. But here a difficulty occurred to Sir 
A. C. Doyle. In his lectures all over the kingdom he 
has had to outbid the preacher. I promise you, he 
told bereaved mothers, that you shall see again just 
the blue-eyed, golden-haired child that you lost. He 
even says this in his book. With all goodwill, we 
cannot let him have it both ways. If children rapidly 
mature, mothers will not see the golden-haired child 

At the risk of seeming meticulous, I would point 
out another aspect of the revelation on which more 
information is desirable. Golden hair implies a 
certain chemical combination which is well known to 
the physiologist. Blue eyes mean a certain degree 
of thinness of pigment on the front curtains of the 
eye. Now, ether has no chemical elements. It is 
precisely the subtle substance of the universe which 


is not yet moulded into chemical elements. Are we 
to take it that Summerland is really a material 
universe, not an ether world ? 

As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has glowingly praised 
the revelations which have come through the Rev. 
Mr. Vale Owen, I turn to these for closer guidance, 
and I find that my suspicion is correct. The next 
world is a material world. Whether it has a different 
sun from ours is not stated, but it is a world of 
wonderful colour. Flowers of the most gorgeous 
description live in it perpetually. Whether they ever 
grew up or will ever decay, whether they have roots 
in soil and need water, the prophet has not yet told 
us. But the world is lovely with masses of flowers. 
People also dress like the flowers. They have 
beautifully coloured robes and gems (none of your 
"damaged worsted "for Mr. Vale Owen). In other 
words, light, never-fading light, is the grand feature 
of the next world. Since ether does not reflect light, 
it is obviously a material universe. 

Music is the second grand element. Perhaps Mr. 
Owen would dispute this, and say that preaching is 
the outstanding feature. Certainly, everybody he 
describes preaches so constantly and so dully that 
many people will not like the prospect. Let us take 
it, rather, that music is the second great feature. 
They have great factories for musical instruments 
which make a mockery of Brinsmeads. The bands 
go up high towers and produce effects which no 
earthly musician ever dreamed of producing. It 
follows, of course, that the ghosts not only tread 
a solid soil, in which flowers grow, on which they 
build towers and mansions, but a very considerable 
atmosphere floats above the soil. Mr. Vale Owen, 


in fact, introduces streams and sheets of water ; lovely 
lakes and rivers for the good ghosts and " stagnant 
pools " in the slums of ghostland. We will not press 
this. Mr. Owen forgot for a moment that it never 
rains in Summerland. But the atmosphere is an 
essential part of the revelation, as without it there 
will certainly be no music or flying birds. And an 
atmosphere means a very solid material world. Our 
moon, which weighs millions of billions of tons, is too 
light to possess an atmosphere and water. Con- 
sequently, there must be thousands of miles of solid 
rock and metal underfoot in ghostland. 

It follows further that, since ghostland is very 
spacious, and since at least a billion humans (to say 
nothing of animals) have quitted this earth since the 
ape men first wandered over it, this other material 
universe must be very extensive. If all the inhabited 
planets in the universe have their Summerlands, or 
all pour their dead into one vast Summerland, one 
begins to see that modern science is a ridiculous 
illusion. We should not see the sun, to say nothing 
of stars a thousand billion miles away, or even 
remoter nebulae. As to astronomical calculations of 
mass and gravitation 

I can sustain the comedy no longer. These '' reve- 
lations " are the most childish twaddle that has been 
put before our race since the Middle Ages. They are 
the meanderings of imaginations on a level with that 
of a fifteen-year-old school-girl. One really begins to 
wonder if our generation is not in a state of senile 
decay, when tens of thousands of us acclaim this 
sort of thing as an outcome of superhuman intelli- 
gence. It is on a level with the " happy hunting 
grounds " of the Amerind. It is a dreamy parson's 


idea of the kind of world he would like to retire to, 
and continue to ** do good " without getting tired. It 
is a flimsy, irresponsible, juvenile thing of paint and 
tinsel and gold-foil : the kind of transformation-scene 
in which we revelled, at the Christmas pantomime, 
when we were young. Our generation needs guidance 
if ever any generation of men did. Another great 
war would wreck the planet. The social soil heaves 
with underground movements. The stars are hidden 
from view. And people come before us with this 
kind of insipid puerility, and tell us it is '' the greatest 
message ever offered to man." 

Seriously, what it is can be told in few words. It 
is partly a fresh attempt to bring our generation back 
to religion. It is partly an attempt to divert working 
people from the politics and economics of this world. 
And it is partly a fresh outbreak of the unlimited 
credulity which every epidemic of Spiritualism has 
developed since 1848. There was such a phase in 
the fifties of the nineteenth century, when Spiritualism 
swept over the world. There was a second such phase 
in the seventies, when materializations began. This 
was checked by exposures everywhere in the early 
eighties, and not until our time has Spiritualism 
partly recovered. Now the vast and lamentable 
emotional disturbance of the War has given it a 
fresh opportunity, and for a time the flame of 
credulity has soared up again. 

To come back to the question which forms the title 
of this book, the reader may supply the answer, but 
I will venture to ofter him a few summary reflections. 
We do well to distinguish two classes of phenomena. 
Broadly, but by no means exactly, this is the distinc- 
tion between psychical and physical phenomena. 


Messages on slates or paper from the spirit-world I 
would class with the physical phenomena. We have 
seen that they reek with fraud, and there is no serious 
claim that any of them are genuine. 

The nearest we can get to a useful division is to 
set on one side a small class of mediums of high 
character who claim that, in trance and script, they 
are spirit-controlled. 

Spiritualism is not based on these things. The 
thousands of enthusiastic Spiritualists of Great Britain 
and America know nothing about the "Ear of 
Dionysius " and the " cross-correspondences " of the 
Psychical Researchers. Their faith is solidly based 
on physical phenomena. They are taught by their 
leaders to base it on physical phenomena. Sir A. C. 
Doyle and Sir W. Barrett urge the levitations and 
other miracles of D. D. Home and Stainton Moses 
and Kathleen Goligher. Sir Oliver Lodge — who 
seems also to admit the preceding — asks us to con- 
sider seriously the performances of Marthe Beraud. 
Sir W. Crookes lets it be understood that to the day 
of his death he believed in "Katie King" and the 
spirit-played accordion. Professor Richet, and all 
those other professors and scholars whose names are 
fondly quoted by Spiritualists, rely entirely on phy- 
sical phenomena. If you cut out all the physical- 
phenomena mediums of the nineteenth century, and 
all the ghost-photographs and " direct voices " of 
to-day, you have very little left. That is to say that 
Spiritualism is generally based on fraud. 

Does it matter ? Yes, it matters exceedingly. It 
matters more than it ever did before. The world is 
at a pass where it needs the clearest-headed attention 
and warmest interest of every man and woman in 


every civilization. Fine sentiments, too, we want ; 
but not a sentimentality that palsies the judgment. 
Men never faced graver problems or had a greater 
opportunity. Instead of distraction we want concen- 
tration on earth. Instead of dreaminess we want a 
close appreciation of realities. There lies before our 
generation a period either of greater general prosperity 
than was ever known before, or a period of prolonged 
and devastating struggle. Which it shall be depends 
on our wisdom. 

Is there any need to settle whether we shall live 
after death ? The Spiritualist says that if we could 
convince men that their lot in that other world will 
be decided by their characters they will be more eager 
for justice, honour, and sobriety. But a man's position 
in this world is settled by his character. Justice, 
honour, and sobriety are laws of this world. Men 
would have perceived it long ago, and acted accord- 
ingly, but for the unfortunate belief that these 
qualities were arbitrarily commanded by supernatural 
powers. We need no other-worldly motives whatever 
for the cultivation of character. Indeed, so far as I 
can see, the man who gambles and drinks is more 
likely to say to the Spiritualist: ** You tell me there 
is no vindictive hell for what I do here. You tell me 
there are no horses or fiery drinks in that other world. 
Then I will drink and bet while the opportunity 
remains, and be sober and prudent afterwards." 

But the dead, the loved ones we have lost ! Must 
we forfeit this new hope that we may see them again ? 
Let us make no mistake. Half the civilized world 
has already forfeited it. Six million people in London 
never approach a church, and the vast majority of 
these believe no longer in heaven. So it is in the 


large towns of nearly every civilization. Yet the 
number of Spiritualists in the entire world is not 
one-tenth the number of *' pagans " in London alone. 
And there is no weeping and gnashing of teeth. At 
the time of the wrench one suffers. Slowly nature 
embalms the w^ound, as she already draws her green 
mantle over the hideous wounds of France and 
Belgium. We learn serenity.-^ Life is a gift. Every 
friend and dear one is a gift. It is not wise to 
complain that gifts do not last for ever. 

The finest sentiment you can bestow on the 
memory of the dead is to make the world better for 
the living. Has your child been torn from you ? In 
its memory try to make the world safer and happier 
for the myriads of children who remain. This earth 
is but a poor drab thing compared with what it could 
be made in a single generation. Hotbeds of disease 
abound in our cities, and children fall in scandalous 
numbers in the heat of summer or perish in the 
blasts of winter. Let the pain of loss drive us 
survivors into securing that losses shall be less 
frequent and less painful. Do not listen to those 
who say that critics crush the voice of the heart in 
the name of reason. We want all the heart we can 
get in life, all the strength of emotion and devotion 
we can engender. But let it be expended on the 
plain, and plainly profitable, task of making this 
earth a Summerland. Do that, as your leisure and 
your powers permit, and, when the day is over, you 
will lie down with a smile, whether you are ever to 
awaken or are to sleep for ever. 


UNivERsixy or calipornia library 


Return to desk from which borrowed. 
!^!.^!MiSl£?^^<^^ --Ped below. 



AUG 2 2 ,955 

JAN 22 '965 



DEC 16 1969 

NOV :■ 

-€C 9 REC'D -5 PI! 
AUG 2 1974 

DEC 1 1991 





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